Saturday, April 29, 2006
Hunter legislation needs to be examined closely
The danger of having a college intern serve as your capitol correspondent was on display in this morning's Joplin Globe as MU student Sadie Gurman examined Rep. Steve Hunter's latest anti-union legislation.
On the surface of it, Ms. Gurman's article is extremely well done. She covers Hunter's side and she covers the union side of his so-called right-to-work bill. Ms. Gurman is a talented reporter; I have no doubt she will go far, but like other statehouse and Congressional reporters, she looks at these bills as if they exist in a vacuum.
The Joplin Globe was the first newspaper to report that Steve Hunter is essentially a paid lobbyist for Missouri businesses. This is not a reference to his political leanings, but to the money he receives as an employee of Associated Industries of Missouri. He is not technically a lobbyist. According to his biography on the Missouri House of Representatives website, Hunter is a membership recruiter for AIM. AIM's website describes just what the organization does, it represents the "interests of Missouri employers before the General Assembly, state agencies, the courts, and the public." That is called lobbying. The lobbying is paid for by AIM's members, who are recruited by Steve Hunter. The more members he recruits, the more money goes into lobbying, if his job description is accurate.
His paid position with a lobbying organization needs to be mentioned every time a story about Hunter is written. It's not as if he was churning out pro-business legislation since he arrived in Jefferson City.
During his first three years as a representative,as I noted in the July 15, 2005, Turner Report, Hunter did not sponsor any business legislation. Then three weeks after the end of the 2003 General Assembly, he found a new job as a membership recruiter for AIM. It would be safe to speculate that if Steve Hunter were not the chairman of the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee, he would not have been the first person AIM would have thought about hiring. That committee, of course, deals with the workers compensation legislation that AIM and Missouri businesses pushed during the 2005 session. It also deals with the anti-union legislation being promoted by Hunter this year and last year. If that is not a conflict of interest, the term has no meaning.