Friday, June 09, 2006

Should lobbyists contribute to politicians?

Should lobbyists contribute to pols?
The N.C. General Assembly is hustling to adopt a number of new bills dealing with ethical problems that have developed in the last couple of years – including new restrictions on legislative lobbyists who try to influence the legislature.
Last year, lawmakers approved a new lobbyist regulation bill that takes effect in 2007, but this summer the House is working on a bill that would strengthen that law. The N.C. Professional Lobbyists Association not only recommended a complete ban on giving legislators anything of monetary value, but also called for a ban on financial contributions from lobbyists to campaigns of legislators or executive branch officials. That would avoid giving the impression that lobbyists are buying the votes of those they seek to influence.
But it’s not clear the House will go for that ban. The News & Observer reports that Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, is concerned about free speech issues and would allow lobbyists to give up to $4,000 per election to legislators -- in total, not per candidate, as an earlier version of this blog post stated. He points to court decisions that equate making political contributions with the 1st Amendment right to free speech.
On the other hand, campaign contribution bans on lobbyists in at least three Southern states – Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee – have not been thrown out by the courts, the paper said.
How do you feel about this? Is it a 1st Amendment issue that should enable lobbyists to give the same amount of contributions as any other citizen? Or does the public interest in strong ethics rules justify a ban on campaign contributions from lobbyists who seek to influence legislators?


Anonymous said...

I am against lobbyists in general. They should not have any more access to our elected representatives than we do. I believe that the penalty for both the giving and taking of these "incentives" should be steep. I don't like that the officials themselves( not all of them) can't be counted on to keep the public trust and not take inappropriate contributions.

After all, Eve did take a bite from the forbidden apple, but it didn't fall into her mouth.

Jack Betts said...

Oops! Rep. Stam advises me his proposal would allow lobbyists to donate $4,000 per election, total, not $4,000 per person. Would that make a difference?

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