The Big Swill: It includes unpublicized dining with lobbyists | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Big Swill: It includes unpublicized dining with lobbyists

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 7:01 AM

The party never ends for the Arkansas legislature.

It turns out that, despite Amendment 94's ban on gifts by lobbyists and their employers to legislators, there's been little abatement in free swill for lawmakers. I've been reporting daily events here, but I got details yesterday on another loophole the lobbyists have exploited in Amendment 94.

First, today's freebies that appear on the Senate and House calendars:

BREAKFAST, 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m., Capitol Hill Building, AARP.

LUNCH, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Catfish Farmers of Arkansas and the Arkansas Bait and Ornamental Fish Growers Association.

LUNCH, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Capitol Square Apt. #13, Arkansas Health Care Association.

The legislature is in the process of giving the Ethics Commission powers granted under Amendment 94 to set and enforce ethics rules.

If we had a commission worthy of the name, the first thing they'd do is say daily free dining was not what Amendment 94 meant in the exception for "a planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited." A daily lunch by the Health Care Association (nursing home lobby) in an apartment is a planned activity for a governmental body? It just sounds like free slop to me.

But it gets worse. Much worse.

I learned yesterday that, in addition to helpfully offering to "tweak" rules to make them more commodious, lobbyists also were circulating new rules about "planned activities" for legislative committees, also a government body. The lobbyists noted that these "events" are not published on the legislative websites.

Happily, the Bureau of Legislative Research, which is serving as the clearing house for wining and dining of legislators in need of freebies, still recognizes the Freedom of Information Act. Here's the list of "planned activities" held or scheduled so far this session:

click to enlarge screen_shot_2015-01-29_at_6.46.03_am.png

I credit House Speaker Jeremy Gillam for attempting to get some handle on this by setting rules that require advance scheduling and arrangement through the Bureau. Otherwise, you can imagine how easy it would be for Bruce Hawkins or Ted Mullenix or similar to know that only a critical quorum of a certain committee was in town — their pack horses on special interest legislation — and invite the whole committee to a spur-of-the-moment cocktail-and-steak fest. "planned activity" knowing that their targets would be the only ones likely to show up.

Gillam says he might make the committee events public eventually. He said, understandably, that things have been busy. He does defend these Committee dinners, however, more than I would. He sees them as important informational sessions to explain complex legislation. And nothing makes an explanation go down to more receptive ears than free drinks and food. It still looks a lot like influence purchasing to me and a good Ethics Commission would come up some more meaningful way to define a "planned activity" than an excuse for freebies.

Some lobbyists prefer to conduct business professionally. At the Capitol. By phone. By mail. By e-mail. Many of them welcomed tighter rules on gifts to lawmakers to be freed from demands of the greediest, some known for calling jp lobbyists for a credit card number to charge dinner. But if a three-month old "ethics" amendment is already being pushed out of shape, , it can only get worse. Credit cards will have to be dusted off by all.

You can look up clients of above lobbyists at the secretary of state's disclosure page.  Consumer Access is a coalition of grocery retailers who hope to expand the rule on selling wine in groceries beyond native and small-production wineries. FYI. I bet they won't be pouring Paisano at Brave New.

Tags: , , , , ,


Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Judge orders Stu Soffer off state Election Commission

    Chris Burks, attorney for the Arkansas Democratic Party, says Jefferson Circuit Judge Phillip Green ruled today that Stu Soffer, a White Hall Republican, couldn't serve on both the Jefferson County and state election commissions.
    • Mar 23, 2018
  • State will appeal Griffen decision on medical marijuana permits

    The state of Arkansas served notice today that it would ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to review Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's order this declaring the award of five medical marijuana cultivation permits null and void.
    • Mar 23, 2018
  • Thank goodness: Friday

    The open line and today's video headlines.
    • Mar 23, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

Most Viewed

  • Missing State Hospital patient provided contraband

    Several news outlets, including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, have reported that missing State Hospital patient Cory Chapin had been provided contraband — including a cell phone and vaping device — and that a psychological examiner he left with, Michelle Messer, had been questioned about it.This confirms a telephone report we received from another hospital patient who reported on this and other favors Chapin had bragged about.
  • March for Our Lives includes Arkansas events

    They're predicting one of the largest marches ever Saturday in Washington, the March For Our Lives against gun violence. Sibling marches, hundreds of them, are planned around the country, including Bentonville and Little Rock.
  • Suit filed over failed candy deliveries

    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today filed a lawsuit against an on-line candy business based in Little Rock for failing to deliver orders.
  • Stodola reports good poll numbers for re-election bid

    Mark Stodola says poll numbers look good for his re-election bid. And, yes, he says in response to some rumors circulating, he IS running.
  • Texas harvests medical cannabis almost three years after law signed

    In 2015, Texas passed a law legalizing sale of CBD, a non-euphoric oil derived from cannabis, for treatment of certain medical conditions. The Texas Tribune reports that the first crop has been harvested, almost three years after the legislation was signe

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation