Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ridiculous Catch-22 in state lobbying law

If you saw Ben Niolet's eye-popping stories this week about a mind-boggling Catch-22 in state law that was designed to bring more transparency to state government but which actually blocks that transparency, you're already wondering whether the right hand in Raleigh knows what the left hand is doing. Here's a link to Ben's latest story in the Observer, which also appeared in the News & Observer in the state capital.

In a nutshell, the story says that former highly-rated lobbyist Don Beason is fighting a $111,000 fine imposed for a violation of the state lobbying law by the Secretary of State's office. By law that office enforces state law, and evidently it charged Beason several years ago with being paid with money from five undisclosed clients that was channeled through a New Jersey company. The scheme evidently was to hide the real employer of the lobbyist. Beason said he did nothing wrong and worked only for a properly registered client.

And while state law establishes a way to enforce requirements that lobbyists must register with the office and abide by state reporting requirements, it also prevents the state from disclosing any details of an investigation or the outcome of any action taken. We would not know about the fine that Beason is fighting at all if he were not fighting the fine before an administrative law judge. How many others have been sanctioned? None? Some? A lot? We don't know thanks to this baffling contradiction in state policy.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who set up a commission to study state lobbying laws several years ago, which led to beefing up the state's laws, sought advice last year from the state attorney general's office to see if she could disclose information. Attorney General Roy Cooper's office examined the law and concluded that not only could Marshall not disclose anything about an investigation, but also could not say whether a lobbyist was sanctioned for a violation. That's because the General Assembly wrote the law in a way that restricts release of information about lobbying enforcement actions.

This is surely among the top 10 most ridiculous things I've heard of in my more than 33 years of covering Raleigh. The whole point of requiring lobbyists to register and to disclose what they spend to lobby is to allow the public to know who's trying to influence the passage or defeat of legislation.

And the whole point of beefing up penalties -- which once were a well-known joke in North Carolina -- was to improve compliance with lobbying laws. The theory was that lobbyists would not want to be judged as having not complied with state law, let alone pay a hefty fine.

But when the law prevents the public from knowing who has been found in violation of state lobbying law, there's no transparency, there's less incentive for lobbyists to comply with the law and the joke just gets worse.

You'll see in Ben's story that legislators are shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to learn that they didn't require public disclosure of at least the outcome of any sanctions levied against lobbyists. And maybe some legislators did not know that's what they were doing. Maybe legislative leaders in the rush to get other things done weren't quite aware that they had created this tomfool loophole in the law that protects lobbyists from being found out.

Maybe. And maybe thunder will curdle milk, too.

The ghost of Joseph Heller must be laughing its head off by now. Even novelist Heller couldn't have come up with such an absurd Catch-22.

4 comments:

ally said...

MBT will not only change,MBT boots,the way you use your MTB Shoes,What are the benefits?christian dior,Free shipping and free return shippingdior shoes,on all diorIncluded with each pair ofdior handbags,an instructional DVDWhat is Dior?dior sunglasses,look at another good paoduct such as Dior totesDo not worryThe urge to buy these goodsnew balancerevolutionary fitness aid from Swiss Masai,new balance shoes,which may help reduce cellulite andnew balance outlet,transforms flat hard artificial surfaces Puma Shoes, with top quality and cheap price. puma outlet,innovative sole design includes thePuma Sneaker,Here you can buy wide rangewholesale cl high heel sandalsquality and cheap car GPS navigation systemsMoncler,Very Cool, Comfortable and lightmoncler jacketsoriginal packing you can rest assured.moncler coatsYou might say that thediscount moncler vestNo one ever thought bothmoncler outlet,As with everything that comes fmonmoncler t-shirtThe new store has been decorated.north faceWe are offering you a wide range ofnorth face outletSome color combinations seem to getnorthfaceBut within the same community north face jacketsbecause it features just the right amount of north face coats,A little of these are given below.ugg bootswas a very well-known French fashionable boot,cheap ugg bootsbecause of the wisdom featuresdiscount ugg bootswhich you are buying is uniqueclassic ugg bootsthey obtain materials from domestic suppliers ugg classic tall boots,A stroll around the park with the GHD IV Salon Styler,We are offering you coach outlet,our store has been decorated coach handbags,Nicecoach totes

ally said...

MBT will not only change,MBT boots,the way you use your MTB Shoes,What are the benefits?christian dior,Free shipping and free return shippingdior shoes,on all diorIncluded with each pair ofdior handbags,an instructional DVDWhat is Dior?dior sunglasses,look at another good paoduct such as Dior totesDo not worryThe urge to buy these goodsnew balancerevolutionary fitness aid from Swiss Masai,new balance shoes,which may help reduce cellulite andnew balance outlet,transforms flat hard artificial surfaces Puma Shoes, with top quality and cheap price. puma outlet,innovative sole design includes thePuma Sneaker,Here you can buy wide rangewholesale cl high heel sandalsquality and cheap car GPS navigation systemsMoncler,Very Cool, Comfortable and lightmoncler jacketsoriginal packing you can rest assured.moncler coatsYou might say that thediscount moncler vestNo one ever thought bothmoncler outlet,As with everything that comes fmonmoncler t-shirtThe new store has been decorated.north faceWe are offering you a wide range ofnorth face outletSome color combinations seem to getnorthfaceBut within the same community north face jacketsbecause it features just the right amount of north face coats,A little of these are given below.ugg bootswas a very well-known French fashionable boot,cheap ugg bootsbecause of the wisdom featuresdiscount ugg bootswhich you are buying is uniqueclassic ugg bootsthey obtain materials from domestic suppliers ugg classic tall boots,A stroll around the park with the GHD IV Salon Styler,We are offering you coach outlet,our store has been decorated coach handbags,Nicecoach totes

Ann said...

Fashion trends change on daily basis, like Gold GHD. Following the latest in designer shades has become a passion of everyone, now Burberry Sunglasses. If you are the type of a woman who loves to explore in fashion, our ED Hardy Sunglasses will definitely satisfy your taste. Cheap Ed Hardy Sunglasses is also OK. Ed hardy streak of clothing is expanded into its wholesale ED Hardy T-shirt chain so that a large number of fans and users can enjoy the cheap ED Hardy Clothing range easily with the help of numerous secured websites, actually, our ED Hardy Outlet. As we all know, in fact discount ED Hardy, is based on the creations of the world renowned tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy. Well, this question is bound to strike the minds of all individuals. Many people may say Prada shoes is a joke, but we can give you Prada Sunglasses, because we have Prada handbags. Almost everyone will agree that Prada Purses are some of the most beautiful designer handbags marketed today. Now we have one new product: Prada totes. The reason is simple: fashion prohibited by ugg boots, in other words, we can say it as Cheap ugg boots. Would you like to wear Discount ugg boots. We have two kinds of fashionable boots: classic ugg boots and ugg classic tall boots. Ankh Royalty--the Cultural Revolution. Straightens out the collar, the epaulette epaulet, the Ankh Royalty Clothing two-row buckle. Now welcome to our Ankh Royalty Outlet. And these are different products that bear the most famous names in the world of fashion, like Ankh Royalty T shirt by the way -Prada, Spyder, Moncler(Moncler jackets,or you can say Moncler coats, Moncler T-shirt, Moncler vest,and you can buy them from our discount Moncler outlet), GHD, ED Hardy, Ankh Royalty, Twisted Heart.

Ann said...

Fashion trends change on daily basis, like Gold GHD. Following the latest in designer shades has become a passion of everyone, now Burberry Sunglasses. If you are the type of a woman who loves to explore in fashion, our ED Hardy Sunglasses will definitely satisfy your taste. Cheap Ed Hardy Sunglasses is also OK. Ed hardy streak of clothing is expanded into its wholesale ED Hardy T-shirt chain so that a large number of fans and users can enjoy the cheap ED Hardy Clothing range easily with the help of numerous secured websites, actually, our ED Hardy Outlet. As we all know, in fact discount ED Hardy, is based on the creations of the world renowned tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy. Well, this question is bound to strike the minds of all individuals. Many people may say Prada shoes is a joke, but we can give you Prada Sunglasses, because we have Prada handbags. Almost everyone will agree that Prada Purses are some of the most beautiful designer handbags marketed today. Now we have one new product: Prada totes. The reason is simple: fashion prohibited by ugg boots, in other words, we can say it as Cheap ugg boots. Would you like to wear Discount ugg boots. We have two kinds of fashionable boots: classic ugg boots and ugg classic tall boots. Ankh Royalty--the Cultural Revolution. Straightens out the collar, the epaulette epaulet, the Ankh Royalty Clothing two-row buckle. Now welcome to our Ankh Royalty Outlet. And these are different products that bear the most famous names in the world of fashion, like Ankh Royalty T shirt by the way -Prada, Spyder, Moncler(Moncler jackets,or you can say Moncler coats, Moncler T-shirt, Moncler vest,and you can buy them from our discount Moncler outlet), GHD, ED Hardy, Ankh Royalty, Twisted Heart.