When hell freezes over | Arkansas Blog

Monday, January 1, 2007

When hell freezes over

Posted By on Mon, Jan 1, 2007 at 6:56 AM

This welcome trend of tougher ethics regulation -- being reported in many states as well as Congress -- will arrive in Arkansas concurrent with the next July blizzard. Arkansas lawmakers simply like their little gratuities too much to stop them, even if the lobbyists would let them. Which they wouldn't.

Several states, responding to the federal scandals as well as their own statehouse imbroglios, have already adopted more sweeping gift and travel bans, broader measures to end the central role of lobbyists or government contractors in financing campaigns and new public campaign financing intended to reduce lawmakers’ dependence on big donors.

To enforce their rules, about half the states have also created independent ethics watchdogs, outside the control of the lawmakers they police — something federal lawmakers have so far resisted. House Democrats recently said they would create a panel to study the idea.

John Hurson, a former member of the Maryland General Assembly and president of the National Council of State Legislatures, remembers marveling at the goings-on just a few miles away in the United States Capitol. He was barred from letting a lobbyist buy him a cup of coffee under rules enforced by the Maryland Ethics Commission. Meanwhile, congressmen were flying across the country for golf trips with lobbyists and enlisting them as major fund-raisers for their re-election campaigns.

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