SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Springfield-Area Chamber of Commerce isn’t just endorsing the rezoning of Question 1 on next week’s ballot.
Records from the Missouri Ethics Commission show the Chamber invested $10,000 into a political action committee that is trying to pass the measure.
“The chamber’s a 100-year-old organization that has been engaged in this type of advocacy for decades. And the Chamber is driven by members and volunteer leaders who want to grow the economy, who want to grow opportunity and they vetted this issue through committees and taskforces, looked at all sides of it and made a recommendation to support it,” said Jennifer McClure, the vice president of strategic communications for the chamber. “It’s very, very important sometimes, you know, to take a stand on something that we do believe that will, you know, impact our community for years to come.”
Springfield City Council member Craig Hosmer says that even though the Chamber of Commerce isn’t affiliated with the City of Springfield, donations made for or against city issues could be a conflict of interest.
“[The Chamber] gets involved in ballot issues like the rezoning on Galloway. There’s nothing wrong with the Chamber doing that, but the city is obviously supported by taxpayer dollars,” Hosmer said. ” … For the city to be a member of an organization that is actively participating in for or against an issue, I think is a conflict.”
Hosmer added, “The city, as an entity, shouldn’t be for or against a particular ballot issue. Should it be for or against a particular candidate? The chamber certainly can. But when we’re a member, we’re not a member of any other organization that runs campaigns or nor should we. We shouldn’t be involved in the Democratic Party. We shouldn’t be involved in the Republican Party. We shouldn’t be involved as a city. We shouldn’t be involved in moving or supporting to particular ballot issues.”
Hosmer, like other elected officials in Springfield, has not made endorsements for or against the issue in their personal capacity, citing the city charter prohibiting them to make these endorsements from their elected position.
The Chamber says money donated to political committees comes from private funds, not city taxpayer money.
“The Chamber of Commerce made a contribution to the political action committee in compliance,” McClure said.
“When we use public money, when we give public money to an entity, they’re using those dollars. If the Chamber can show that they’re not and maybe that’s a different issue, but to date, they haven’t done that.” Hosmer said.
McClure says the city’s membership dues paid to the Chamber do not go toward political donations, adding any political donation is made to follow state law.
“We are very, very familiar with and understand all aspects of the applicable statutes and all that is involved in compliance. And we meet all of those standards.”