Monday, February 27, 2006

More thoughts on lobbying

  1. A Delaware County State Rep writes a piece for the Inquirer arguing for the importance of better disclosure rules for lobbying activity in Harrisburg.
    Public disclosure of this information is important. If constituents were able to compare their own legislators' voting record to the gifts they received from lobbyists it would help curtail influence peddling.
    He suggests that if lawmakers can't manage even a minimum disclosure bill (in the current vacuum of any restrictions of any kind), then voters can express their displeasure in the primaries. My, how the threats are piling up...

  2. Separately, an Inquirer editorial points out that lobbying can serve positive purposes.
    In Washington, state capitols and city halls across the land, experts educate lawmakers every day on issues ranging from prescription-drug coverage to workplace safety to nutrition.

    Lawmakers and their staffers can't possibly know all the details involved in crafting thousands of bills annually. Lobbyists' input is needed to draft legislation that balances competing interests while benefiting all kinds of ordinary people who have never flown in a corporate jet.
    They argue that the responsibility to keep influence within bounds should lie with the representatives, not the citizen groups trying to get access, and that regulations should put the burdens of disclosure and paperwork on those whose perks it hopes to regulate, rather than making it even more challenging for regular folks to be heard.
    The risk is that the costs of compliance could hamper the ability of small, poorly funded constituencies to hire effective representation. The big dogs will always be able to pay for lobbyists.

    The burden of reform ought to fall mostly on lawmakers themselves.
    In the end, transparency is likely to be a better weapon than any attempt to predict and proscribe the ingratiations of the biggest offenders. This piece is focused on national considerations, but it applies just as well here in Pennsylvania.


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