Picking up tabs | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Picking up tabs

Posted By on Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Andrew DeMillo previews the coming week at the legislature -- lottery, guns in church, etc. There's mention that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel may finally roll out some ethics bills. One would impose a one-year delay on a legislator morphing into a lobbyist. Another would prevent "absentee" lobbying, by which lobbyists pick up tabs even when they're not there. This is otherwise known as petty bribery.

I was with a lobbyist once shortly after he'd gotten a call from a particularly slimy legislator trolling for a lobbyist's credit card number to take some pals out to eat. You think he was going to honor the $40 limit?

But really. Why is absentee lobbying any different than in-person slopping? Just Say No to wining and dining. The Wal-Mart rule. Good enough for the lottery commission (and it is), good enough for legislators.

And speaking of Wal-Mart: Here's another idea -- Make it illegal for corporate lobbyists to call up elected officials and ask them what charity they'd like to see receive $10,000. This may not be a direct benefit to the elected official, but it sure is one heckuva political benefit and quite a way for a special interest to build goodwill with an elected official.

I learned about this little trick from McDaniel himself. It's not really a secret. Lobbyist for Wal-Mart calls up and asks who he'd like to see get a charitable contribution. He picked the Woman's Crisis Center of Jonesboro. At the check presentation -- a grip and grin for the local newspaper featuring McDaniel and the worthy charity (think such an event has direct political value for the official) -- McDaniel happened to meet his future bride. Nice story. Bad practice no matter how worthy the charity.

We've talked to other officials who've also received this perk and plan to write more about it.

Nip it. But, hey, if not, how about sending $10,000 to the ACLU?

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