Monday, February 25, 2008

Hello again: Failure of ethics reform lies at the feet of Legislators

marjorie says...

There he goes again, blaming public interest advocates for the failure of state legislators to pass ethics reform given that an "...overwhelming majority of the public supports ethics reform."

One thing very clear to me is that public advocates make convenient, and easy, targets. For politicians, and for Monahan apparently (carrying some water, Joe?).

But, last time I checked, advocates aren’t responsible for passing legislation. Legislators are.

Think about what Monahan is saying here:

“…lobbyists are hired by clients to get results and if you are not getting them, the client is entitled to ask why. We linked to Common Cause and suggested they and other leading ethics advocates might want to review their lobbying tactics.”

It’s pretty twisted really, considering that the topic is ethics reform. Frankly, I don’t like the fact that the Roundhouse is beset by swarms of lobbyists “…hired by clients to get results.” There’s a reason that the public overwhelmingly supports ethics reform, and it isn’t the fault of a non-profit public advocacy organization that the state legislature refuses to pass these bills. Here's a thought: maybe it’s the influence of those private lobbyists we should be pointing at instead.

Joe goes on to suggest that legislators might be more amenable to ethics reform if just one reform was introduced each session, because “The public and press has a hard time concentrating on the myriad of ethics proposals floating around the Roundhouse.”

Forgive my incredulity at that statement.

Let me see a show of hands from those who don’t understand these concepts:

  • Campaign Contribution Limits
  • Public Financing of Elections
  • Ethics Commission

Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past decade in the United States understands perfectly well what this reform package meant. Granted, I have just a touch of the political animal in me, but I did not need to be educated by Common Cause or any other group to know what these mean…they’ve been consistent themes in every national election for many years now, with broad public debate. Combine that with the rampant corruption that is glaringly hard to miss in this state, and I don’t think you have to do a lot of public education on these topics. Perhaps this is why there is “overwhelming” support among the public, and why the press has not seemed to have any difficulty with the topic either.

The fact is that there have been many incremental steps toward pushing forward ethics in government. If you want to refresh your memory, simply click on Common Cause’s website. And the latest ethics reform package, which was very clear and pretty darn simple actually, was one more step in the right direction.

As much as I’m disturbed by attempts to shift blame onto a very strong and admirable public interest group, I have to say that part of me is actually pleased that there is such a need to make excuses when it comes to the failure of ethics reform this year. As if there might be consequences.

Joe says that we can’t blame this group of legislators because “…not many passed in the 80's and 90's when other leaders ran the Roundhouse. This is more difficult than just voting out a couple of legislators.”

But we’re not in the 80s or 90s. We’re now in an era of “overwhelming public support” for ethics reform. We can say the same for health care reform, as the most obvious example. If meeting the expressed needs of the majority of this state’s population is the job of the state legislature, then this legislature as a whole failed miserably.

There are plenty of legislators on board with ethics reform, along with the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the State Treasure. We should all thank them for sticking with the public on these issues.

If blame is our dish, then let’s serve it up where it’s deserved--to those state legislators who don't want to get it, along with those who grease their wheels. And then let's hold them accountable to those who hire the ballot box.