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Bill would allow candidates to use campaign money for legal defense

State Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch plans to pre-file a bill that would make it legal to use campaign money for legal defense funds.

“The Missouri laws under Missouri Ethics Commission, your campaign committee moneys can only be spent on certain things,” Reisch said. “It’s a gray area, its not real crystal clear black and white, so I’m going to be filling legislation this month … and I’m going to make it crystal clear.”

This comes after Reisch was sued for blocking a constituent on Twitter on an account she maintains is private, not official.

Columbia attorney Mike Campbell sued Reisch in June in federal court after she blocked him on Twitter when he re-tweeted state Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, criticizing Resich for pointing out her Democratic opponent in the November election had put her hands behind her back during the Pledge of Allegiance.

“When people started calling me liar and that I lie on the House floor, i started blocking some people and three days later they filed a federal lawsuit,” Reisch said.

Campbell claimed a public figure blocking him was a violation of his First Amendment rights. Reisch said it is her personal Twitter account.

A judge ruled it was unconstitutional for President Donald Trump to block people on his Twitter account, while another judge said it wasn’t unconstitutional for Kentucky’s governor to block people on Twitter.

“I’m kind of being called the tiebreaker,” Reisch said.

Reisch held a fundraiser to pay for her legal defense in September in the heat of her re-election campaign. At the time Reisch said the money raised would be split between a legal defense fund and her campaign fund.

As a public official Reisch could ask the state attorney general to represent her, but she said in September that she didn’t want to burden the Attorney General’s Office.

In 2016 a court ruled that Kansas City Mayor Sly James could use campaign funds for a lawsuit.

Reisch said the judge in her case is supposed to make a decision on whether or not to dismiss the case by the end of the month.

If the judge does not dismiss the case, a trial date is already set for March 29 in Kansas City.

Attorney Andy Hirth represents Columbia Attorney Mike Campbell who filed the lawsuit against Reisch.

“As a member of the legislature shes entitled to defense by the attorney general’s office, for whatever reason in this case she didn’t ask the attorney generals office to defend her,” Hirth said. “It’s an expense she didn’t need to incur but she has chosen to and now shes trying to pass legislation to pass that cost off to her donors.”

Reisch said she did not use Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office to represent her in the case because the office can only represent her as an elected official and she wanted an attorney that could represent her as both a private citizen and elected official because she is being sued as both.

Monday marked the start of when House representatives can pre-file bills in Missouri.

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