Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The gravy train keeps rolling

The following, which features bits and pieces of some of my posts during the past week, is my column for this week's Newton County News:

Though Missouri Ethics Commission records are not always the easiest to sift through, they often provide much information about how government operates.
Some recent filings shed some light on the revolving door between elected office and lobbying that has helped corrupt the system.
Former Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, could not run for a third four-year term at that position due to term limits, so he made an unsuccessful effort to become attorney general.
Though Gibbons lost to Chris Koster, don’t feel bad for him. He has landed on his feet, quickly becoming the lobbyist to some top-drawer special interests.
Ethics Commission filings during the past few days show Gibbons not only has registered as a lobbyist, but he already has been hired to represent Associated Industries of Missouri, Coalition for Quality Medical Education, Missouri Health Care Association, Missouri Primary Care Association, Monsanto, Peabody Energy, and The Cordish Company.
And why wouldn’t these companies want Gibbons to make their case before the state legislature? He not only knows all of the power brokers in both houses, but he is only a few days removed from being one.
Gibbons is far from being the only former legislator to become a lobbyist, The list of registered lobbyists for the state, which is also available at the Ethics Commission website, is filled with former senators and representatives.
Each session, someone makes a quixotic attempt to halt the gravy train. This time, the sacrificial lamb is Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield.
HB 221, filed by Ms. Lampe, would prohibit state legislators from becoming lobbyists until two years after they complete their terms.
The bill, which faces a steep uphill climb, if passed would help slow down what has become a Missouri tradition…term-limited legislators spending their final two years lining up new jobs and kowtowing to special interests who dangle those jobs before them.
While I give Ms. Lampe credit for filing this bill, and believe it is the right thing to do, I am not holding my breath waiting for it to become law.
Speaking of lobbyists, their work is not limited to the five months in which the legislature is in session.
Jorgen Schlemeier, lobbyist for Ameristar Casinos, paid for a New Year’s Eve trip to the casino for House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, and former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill.
According to Ethics Commission documents, Schlemeier paid $1,742.28, $580.76 apiece for Tilley, Crowell, and Jetton to celebrate the ringing out of the old and the ringing in of the new at Ameristar Casino in Kansas City.
If you think there is something wrong with lobbyists paying for a gambling trip for state legislators, shame on you. There cannot possibly be anything wrong with it or Rep. Tilley wouldn’t have gone.
After all, Tilley is chairman of the House Ethics Committee.


Busplunge said...

From the AP this afternoon:

"Obama's new lobbying rules will not only ban aides from trying to influence the administration when they leave his staff. Those already hired will be banned from working on matters they have previously lobbied on, or to approach agencies that they once targeted.

"The rules also ban lobbyists from giving gifts of any size to any member of his administration. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ban would include the traditional "previous relationships" clause, allowing gifts from friends or associates with which an employee comes in with strong ties.

"The new rules also require that anyone who leaves his administration is not allowed to try to influence former friends and colleagues for at least two years. Obama is requiring all staff to attend to an ethics briefing like one he said he attended last week."

Anonymous said...

Nah nah nah nah nah - your first post didn't get you anywhere so you're coming back for a second bite of the apple.

Too bad. But you do make for good entertainment!

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the Globe server was hacked and blogs were attacked. Some of them were wiped out totally, and others were changed to read various anti-semitic and anti-Israel statements. The editor's note on the Globe site says only that the blogs are "out of order"; in fact, they are gone.