Why I Oppose a No-Standards “Compete Missouri”

KRCG’s Kermit Miller interviewed me yesterday regarding “Compete Missouri,” part of the wide-ranging economic development proposal being considered in Special Session. My thoughts:

I hate cliches. Good writers never use them. But a cliche only becomes a cliche because its usually true. In this case, Lord Action once said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Compete Missouri seeks to consolidate six different economic development programs into one. The problem is that this program would be placed nearly entirely under the discretion of the Department of Economic Development – and hence, one person, the Governor. This would create what I believe to be a dangerous opportunity for corruption or, at the very least, the frequent appearance of corruption in Missouri government.

Major employers in our state frequently give campaign donations to every serious candidate for governor. Inevitably, a company that made a donation to the current or future governor would receive one of these subsides. Then the stories would start. We’ve recently seen this exact scenario play out with the SynCare contract.

Economic development programs should have clear, written rules that aren’t subject to the ability of one company or another to grease the skids with campaign donations or hire the slickest lawyers and lobbyists.

Gov. Nixon has honorable intentions in pushing for Compete Missouri. But the end result would be an invitation to corruption for future governors – Republican or Democrat. Regardless of whether anything corrupt ever occurred, allegations of corruption would loom over many decisions to award subsidies.