Ethics schmethics | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ethics schmethics

Posted By on Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 7:03 AM

The Democrat-Gazette reports today on the continuing parade of former legislators into the lobby ranks where they hope to earn a living from people they befriended during lawmaking days.

Consider that sentence again -- making money from people they befriended as legislators -- in light of the comments of the new lobbyists who see nothing wrong with this revolving door. Naturallly, they also see no need for a cooling-off period before they engage in seeking this slightly delayed payola.

I wouldn't expect much better from the likes of Jack Critcher.

But I would have hoped at least for a show of decorum from House Speaker Robbie Wills. Wrong.

I should have expected no better. You don't get elected to the speaker's post by promising to upset time-tested practices. I don't expect Wills to campaign for more financial disclosure by lobbyists. I don't expect him to close the revolving door. I don't expect him to limit wining and dining of his colleagues. I don't expect him to seek to tighten rules that allow lobbyists to obscure the payola they lavish on his colleagues. But really. Did Wills have to give such a disingenuous account of himself?

"This is not a problem I've observed in Arkansas," he said. "Term limits prevent anyone from staying in office long enough to gain an unfair advantage and very few term-limited lawmakers become lobbyists. This idea sounds nice, but in reality it's a solution in search of a problem."

As the story notes, Arkansas is a leader in former legislator/lobbyists. The lobbying ranks are full of former regulators as well. It stinks.

With term limits, many lawmakers begin working almost as soon as they arrive to cultivate people who'll provide them with a soft landing when their terms are up.

A solution in search of a problem? No, this is a problem for which legislators are running from a solution because they are either 1) greedy to cash in or, at a minimum, 2) in need of the votes of the greedheads to accomplish their own legislative ends. Shame on the speaker. Shame on all who defend the practice. 

Shame on me for wasting my breath on the culture of petty corruption that is the Arkansas legislature.


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