Tue
Jan 24 2006
01:51 pm

Michael Silence has posted this handy guide to the ethics bill being worked out by the Tennessee Legislature.

Maybe I don't understand, but some of the proposed amendments seem to loosen the rules. Such as:

  • Shortens "revolving door“ provision keeping lawmakers and state officials from becoming lobbyists to six months rather than one year.
  • Removes lobbyist requirements for municipalities, city governments, county governments and school boards.
  • Removes the requirement that the registration information of at least 2 percent of employers of lobbyists be audited.
  • Removes new provisions regarding unpaid loans to political campaigns.
  • Removes ban on lobbyists making campaign contributions to or hosting campaign events for candidates running for state office.

    Most of the rest of it sounds pretty reasonable, I guess. Frankly, I haven't been following it because it seems like a waste of time. It’s already illegal to take bribes and kickbacks. I don't see why we can't just have officials swear an oath to uphold the laws and the constitution, and put public and taxpayer interest ahead of any personal or special interests and to not vote on any measure in which they have a conflict of interest. Then seek out and prosecute any violators.

  • Andy Axel's picture

    And more: --Removes lobbyist

    And more:

    --Removes lobbyist requirements for municipalities, city governments, county governments, and school boards

    --Shortens the blackout period for PAC contributions to individual candidates from 20 days before an election to 10 days

    --Clarifies that only PAC contributions in excess of $5000 must be reported

    --Requires that candidates' contributions be audited by the registry only if more than 30% of contributions are not itemized

    I don't see why we can't just make official swear an oath to uphold the laws and the constitution, and put public and taxpayer interest ahead of any personal or special interests and to not vote on any measure in which they have a conflict of interest.

    One problem -- lobbyists aren't technically state officials.

    R. Neal's picture

    Sure, and they have a first

    Sure, and they have a first amendment right to redress their government and whatnot. (Too bad the PEOPLE don't have lobbyists. Oh, wait, that's supposed to be LEGISLATORS).

    But, they peddle influence over state officials. If state officials would put the public interest first and avoid conflicts of interest and not break the law there shouldn't be any problem.

    Obviously, that's naive. So in general, I agree there needs to be stricter regulation of lobbyists. Oh, and maybe an open, online registry database of lobbyists, issues, contributions, and votes. (I think that was something that was being tossed around at one point.)

    Andy Axel's picture

    The sunshine stuff is what's

    The sunshine stuff is what's being tossed around now, but it's being gutted.

    Here's what I think the nut of the problem is... it's the lifers in the lege that are the biggest part of the problem.

    I'm not a big fan of term limits, but how much friggin' longer is Wilder going to be Lt. Gov??? I suspect that he's the biggest reason that we don't directly elect the Lt Gov in this state.

    Plus, the lockstep majority that's been run by Naifeh since the Pleistoceine has hampered genuine efforts at reform before. Here again is where progressives and the GOP have some (un)common cause. The strategies are different, but the aim is the same.

    I think as we go along this road, we're going to see a couple of things -- 1) that the lack of sunshine has led to a casual approach to ethics (which is how I'm convinced that otherwise decent people like Crutchfield got caught up in TN Waltz), and 2) that complacency breeds contempt. That's why it doesn't really matter that the House is a Dem majority, vis-a-vis progressive politics.

    (You'll notice, too, that most of the loosening of restrictions amendments originated in the House. The Senate version seems much more palatable.)

    R. Neal's picture

    On term limits, I keep going

    On term limits, I keep going back and forth. Basically I'm more or less against the idea, but I could be easily persuaded.

    I think it was the original intent of representative government that it was a duty and people would go do their time and then go back to their normal life, sort of like jury duty. In that aspect, term limits would make sense. Except, the founders didn't put anything in the Constitution about it. But they did setup terms for everybody but judges. Then along came FDR, and I guess worries about entrenched executive powers and the "imperial" presidency.

    Nowadays, though, it seems like government is so complex that experience is needed and it is more of a profession than a duty. But then you have guys like Wilder and Byrd et. al.

    And when you hear about corruption, you think maybe it that would also be another good reason for term limits, my theory being that it takes time to cultivate a relationship in which the official is "comfortable" with being a criminal. The less time in office, the less time to get tempted or compromised.

    But then the lobbyists and crooks would probably be more aggressive, or start cultivating candidates and getting them "on board" before they get elected. Which I suppose already happens to some extent.

    So I don't really know. Some days I'm for term limits, some days against. Seems like something needs to change, though.

    (And yes, I did notice the Senate proposals seemed stricter. Guess that tells you where the hot lobbyist on legislator action is!)

    Number9's picture

    I don't see why we can't

    I don't see why we can't just make official swear an oath to uphold the laws and the constitution, and put public and taxpayer interest ahead of any personal or special interests and to not vote on any measure in which they have a conflict of interest. Then seek out and prosecute any violators.

    I have the same frustration. A simple oath should be enough. But it doesn't work. The seeking out and prosecuting the violators doesn't happen often and it happens only when it is so awful that it cannot be covered up.

    I would like more than an oath. I would like a legal document. Think about the agreements you have to sign in everyday life for a bank loan or a medical procedure.

    It seems that bribes and kickbacks can be disguised as "consulting" or other such smoke screens. I would rather pay public representatives a reasonable salary and expressly detail in writing their responsibilities and have them sign an employment agreement. Just like people have to do everyday in the real world. Why should they be treated any differently?

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