Should Legislators Report Trysts With Lobbyists?

The Show-Me State could require reporting sexual liaisons as gifts.

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Virginia's General Assembly officially convenes Wednesday, with some of the country’s most lax ethics laws for public officials.

Consider what they’d be up against in Missouri.

A proposed bill in the state legislature there would require that lobbyists and legislators report to an ethics panel when they have sexual relations together, registering such acts as a gifts.

According to BuzzFeed and the Kansas City Star, no actual dollar amount is set for each specific sexual act or what it would consist of, but it still would be reportable.

The requirement wouldn’t apply if a lobbyist and legislator are legally married or if they entered into a close relationship before the legislator entered public office or before the lobbyist registered as such.

Missouri is taking a tougher line on public ethics after scandals forced two officials from office last year.

Virginia adopted new ethics rules last year after the conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell for corruption in 2014. McDonnell and his wife, who also was convicted, were found to have taken $177,000 in jewelry, loans and vacations from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., a local vitamin supplement maker.

McDonnell’s appeal is being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court today. A decision could come about whether the high court will take the case. If it declines, McDonnell must begin serving a two-year prison term.

After the conviction, the Virginia General Assembly agreed to limit gift-giving to an aggregate of $100 from people seeking to influence the state. It refused tougher measures such as forming an independent ethics commission.

It’s unclear if Virginia would consider making sexual relations a reporting requirement and, if it did, what monetary value would be placed on it.

Here is the wording of the proposed Missouri law:

"For purposes of subdivision (2) of this subsection, the term 'gift' shall include sexual relations between a registered lobbyist and a member of the general assembly or his or her staff. Relations between married persons or between persons who entered into a relationship prior to the registration of the lobbyist, the election of the member to the general assembly, or the employment of the staff person shall not be reportable under this subdivision. The reporting of sexual relations for purposes of this subdivision shall not require a dollar valuation."

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