Self-Policing Lobbyists

Often lost in discussions about ethics legislation and lobbyist influence is the fact that there is a legitimate value that lobbyists can bring to the legislative process. I’m in favor of making solid rules of ethics for legislators and lobbyists without removing lobbyists altogether. With that perspective, I really enjoyed this Deseret News story about a lobbyist who carefully limits the money he spends on legislators.

While some lobbyists often take lawmakers to Utah Jazz games — all good seats are over $50 — or to expensive restaurants, {Paul} Rogers is one of a growing number of lobbyists who works in more modest means, even if they have the wherewithal to spend more on legislators.

“My firm, Tetris, has season Jazz tickets. We use those for ourselves and our families. I’m finding that many legislators don’t want those (more expensive gifts),” Rogers said.

One thing I have always believed is that buying a meal for a legislator as a way to sit down with them is generally a perfectly reasonable “gift” for a lobbyist to give a legislator. If our $50 cap on anonymous gift is encouraging lobbyists and legislators to limit their financial back-scratching to such meals then I am pleased with that rule.

I would not consider this to be sufficient evidence that we do not need any more ethics legislation, but I do see it as a good sign that it is possible to have reasonable restrictions to discourage excessive use of gifts for legislators.

2 comments for “Self-Policing Lobbyists

  1. Velska
    July 21, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I have to say that the headline made me think of a rabbit in your vegetable garden, who won’t eat all he can, because that would be unethical.

    As it is, I’m delighted that you can find even some who don’t try to buy influence with money. But will they last without legislation? It seems that money is a powerful persuader.

  2. July 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I like that imagery. It’s all about getting the golden eggs without killing the goose.

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