There is an interesting proposed law in Missouri where lobbyists who have sex with state lawmakers or their aides would have to disclose that activity to the state ethics commission. Rep. Bart Korman wants such sexual relations to be reported as a “gift” on a monthly basis, though he is not requiring the couples to assign a dollar value on the gift. The measure addresses a real and long-standing concern about the use of sex to influence politicians. History is rife with such scandals. However, the measure would raise serious privacy and other constitutional issues.
Legislators appear increasingly creative in addressing the corruption of their colleagues, including the recent proposal to require California legislators to wear patches identifying their chief donors.
Korman insists that he is simply trying to “add some transparency and accountability to our governmental process.” The problem is that the law would intrude into privacy areas in an unprecedented way. It is not illegal for lobbyists to have sexual relations with lobbyists and this law would require embarrassing and potential harmful speech. Putting aside the requirement of reporting such relationships as “gifts,” a more difficult question is whether a law could simply require disclosure of any such relationships as a matter of record like any other potential conflict of interest. I have long advocated either blind trusts for legislators or full disclosure of stock and other financial interests. Personal interests can have the same impact on the independence of legislators. The same can be said about nepotism in family members securing high-paid lobbyist positions, a subject upon which I have previously written.