Favorite

On Wisconsin 

In a matter of hours, a timid ethics proposal by Reps. Steve Harrelson and Dan Greenberg was headed for the scrap heap, though they waited a few days before conceding defeat.

They proposed a House rule to report gifts, meals, drinks, etc., from lobbyists. It burdened only House members. It didn't apply to the Senate. It had no enforcement mechanism. It didn't cover the people who employ lobbyists.

But none of the structural flaws explain the death of the proposal. The Arkansas legislature simply does not want lobbyist gratuities reported fully. And it most certainly does not want them ended.

Talk to an honest lobbyist. He'll tell you how lobbyists use the ruse of group events — to which all legislators are nominally invited even when only a handful are expected — to put on lavish feeds in excess of the $40 reporting threshold. Group events are exempt from individual reporting. He'll tell you about the question most asked by legislators at lobbyist feeds — “This isn't going to be reported, right?”

Go to fine restaurants. Watch lobby teams split up payments for food and drink. Search in vain, too, for reports of any lobbying activity or expenditures on the reports of the lobbyist who has a well-known open bar tab nightly for all legislative comers at a downtown watering hole.

In short, reporting won't lift the legislature from its ethical sewer. Lawmakers need to swear off the freebies. Or voters need to swear them off by an initiated act. It's not a radical notion. All we need do is adopt Wisconsin's ethics laws.

Wisconsin has a one-year cooling-off period before any state official or employee can go to work as a lobbyist. Their law says a public official may not act on a matter in which the official has a private interest. Lobbyists must file detailed reports, easily searchable on-line, that disclose not only legislation on which they are lobbying but future issues, not yet filed. You can imagine how useful this would be to people trying to keep up with the clandestine dealings that often characterize the Arkansas legislature. Surprise race track casino bills wouldn't be so surprising, for example.

And get a load of the simplicity of this rule, as articulated by the Wisconsin Ethics Board:

“No lobbyist and no business or organization that employs a lobbyist may furnish anything of pecuniary value to an elected official, candidate for state elective office, legislative employee or agency official.” Anything.

There's a limited exception for certain speaking fees, but Wisconsin has closed out the bar tab. And lawmakers there not only may not accept free skybox tickets from lobbyists and others, they also can't purchase them unless they can demonstrate equivalent tickets are available to the public at the same price,

Many lobbyists would tell you they'd love such rules here. They'd save money. They hate it when a legislator shows up for dinner with a girlfriend, kids, first cousins and the neighborhood mechanic for a free feedbag. Good lobbyists are perfectly capable of doing business as other business people do, in person at places of business, by phone and by e-mail. The poorer among them know, too, that the freebies work. Petty bribery influences vote after vote.

Legislators wouldn't fight so hard to keep these illicit perks and avoid disclosing them if they didn't recognize the corruption. There's an easy fix. Copy Wisconsin. You tell me: Is Arkansas a better place than Wisconsin because we have lower ethical standards?

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Fritz Brantley

  • Words, Dec. 20

    Introducing an old movie on the old movie channel the other night, the host told an old story. The story is untrue, although I suppose the host, semi-old, believed it.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • He talks, and talks, the talk

    A fellow posted an old newspaper article on his blog about a Mike Huckabee speech to a religious group in 1998. A friend faxed the article to me, then called to ask if I’d yet read it, which I had.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • Going whole hog

    A Q&A with irreverent Arkansas-raised comedian Matt Besser
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • We're No. 1! in vote suppression

    It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Bangin' in LR

    About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, with the Power Ultra Lounge downtown jammed for a rap show by Finese2Tymes (Ricky Hampton of Memphis), gunfire broke out. Before it was over, 25 people had been wounded by gunfire and three others injured in the rush for safety.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Pay attention

    • Adawson's comments attribute the plight of black people in the United States to the War…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • Heather Wilson, blacks have NOT been prevented from pursuing the skilled trades as a result…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • Gee, so you were there when Jesus spoke - how old you must be. First-person…

    • on July 22, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation