House leaders ask lobbyists for 'tweaks' to ethics amendment. Who needs ethics reform? | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

House leaders ask lobbyists for 'tweaks' to ethics amendment. Who needs ethics reform?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 4:18 PM

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Here we go.

A memo from Laura Hawkins of the Arkansas Society of Professional Lobbyists:

ASPL has been asked by the House leadership to comment as a group on challenges/clarification issues Society members see in regard to the ethics legislation/Amendment 3. Please email me any suggestions or tweaks that you think needs to be addressed in regard to the ethics legislation. Please think about it and send me an email in the next few days so we can respond in a timely manner.

We are asking for volunteers to serve on a subcommittee to develop a formal position to send to them. Please email me if you would agree to serve on this subcommittee.


Got it? House "leadership" is asking "lobbyists" for "tweaks" on brand-new Amendment 94, which banned gifts by lobbyists and their employers to legislators and which gives an independent commission control of legislative pay and advisory power on expenses.

The legislature hasn't even passed the enabling legislation that the amendment provides for the Ethics Commission to take broader control over ethics matters. Already, the Ethics Commission — its pay and budget set by the legislature — took a hands-off approach to blatant flaunting of at least the spirt of campaign finance law by finding no foul in $400,000 worth of TV advertising to advance Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's candidacy. She starred in the ad. Merely educational, a unanimous and too-timid commission decided when it could have said, "This duck quacks."

Already, the lobby has run a truck through the no-gift rule, as I predicted it would do with a gift exception for scheduled events to which all members of a governmental body are invited.

The lobby is merely declaring breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour and dinner special events and slopping the legislative hogs at private events with the same enthusiasm as before.

Tweaks? Does that mean a return to lobbyist stacking and splitting of entertainment bills to evade gift limits? Does that mean giving a credit card number to a greedy legislator? Does it mean an exception for certain caucuses — like the tort reform caucus on the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee?

Has House leadership asked Common Cause, or Regnat Populus, or the press or the huge majority that voted for a tough ethics amendment about the need for "tweaks"? I doubt it.

Legislators are on the cusp of a 67 percent pay increase, they continue to abuse per diem by drawing it for days they don't come to town, they continue to draw salary supplements in "expense" payments to their wives and now they want "tweaks" to get more favors from lobbyists? They also got an extension of term limits. I'm think maybe one term is enough.

Here's the worst part: A lot of them get Dome Syndrome. They think they deserve all this and more, lots more, for doing us the favor of being Little Rock bigshots.

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