Missouri’s electric cooperatives, including Intercounty Electric, have joined a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Amendment No. 2016-007, the amendment passed in November to limit campaign contributions.

But it is not because the cooperatives are against the new campaign finance limits set forth in the new law.

“What we are against is one provision in Amendment 2 that would prevent our 47 member-owned, nonprofit rural electric cooperatives from contributing to our political action committee while at the same time allowing other companies and special interest groups that may have anti-co-op agendas to continue to make contributions to their PACs,” said Barry Hart, CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “That’s unfair and that’s why we and others believe it’s unconstitutional.”

He added that most people probably never realized that the amendment is a full nine pages long and contains much more than just campaign finance limits when they voted in favor of it.

One section of Amendment 2 allows PAC contributions from businesses formed under Chapters 347 to 360 of the statutes. The problem is that Missouri’s rural electric cooperatives were formed under Chapter 394. Others also now barred from making PAC contributions include fraternal benefit societies, mutual insurance companies and credit unions or any other entities not formed under Chapters 347 to 360.

“Whether this section of the initiative petition was a simple drafting error or whether it was intended to go after some other types of entity, we just don’t know,” Hart said. “We do know that if this measure is not repealed, Missouri’s rural electric cooperatives will be hurt while those with interests adverse to ours will not. Unlike other utilities, rural electric cooperatives are nonprofit and are owned and governed by our members. Fifty percent of our rural electric cooperative members make less than $50,000 a year and 80 percent are over 45 years old. They should be allowed to participate in the political process just like anyone else.”

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