The past couple of days I’ve kinda sorta been wondering what media pranks were in store for today. Maybe that’s why I had a half-awake dream moment this morning when I just *knew* that Joe Monahan was going to blog about the results of the student contest he created well over a month ago. In his blog he would spin a believable yet just a touch crazy yarn about two college students lobbying at the Roundhouse on behalf of ethics reform. It would be the kind of blog that gets you all excited (sort of like Google’s offer this morning to roll back the clock). Then at the end, he’d cop to it: April Fool’s! And acknowledge what we all know: the failure of ethics reform legislation at the Roundhouse in 2008 wasn’t about the lobbying efforts of reform advocates, it was about entrenched legislators who don’t want to give up their gravy-train.
After all today is April Fools Day and how brilliant would that have been? Alas. Like many of these half-awake dream state moments when you *just know* something, it was simple fantasy.
Monahan devised his contest as a way to move on from a moment when he and his lobbyist alligator were roundly criticized for suggesting ethics reform was dead in the water due to advocates not knowing how to lobby. Monahan’s lobbyist cronies don’t like it when outsiders come to the Roundhouse, after all, it’s their living room, not ours. So they attacked Common Cause specifically, and by extension the many non-profit advocates who communicate with legislators about, among other things, the inordinate and destructive nature of the lobbying cabal as it exists today. Many of us think this take is pretty backwards. It leaves legislators off the hook by blaming the messenger.
The time has never been more right for comprehensive ethics reform, given the highly publicized ethics violations and corruption in this state. But according to Monahan, we should take baby steps over many years, because not only were legislators not swayed when they should have been, the public is too confused by the proposals and therefore can't weigh in adequately. As you may remember, I couldn’t help but ask in response what person in their right mind doesn’t know what “campaign contribution limits” means? The fact is that the public is a lot savvier than Joe likes to suggest.
Monahan’s contest had a deadline of March 8, with results to be announced on the 30th. You can see the details of the contest here. Essentially, he offered $500 to the student who developed the best “lobbying/PR” ethics reform plan for next year’s legislative session. Despite the fact that this contest is totally passive-aggressive, I never discount the creativity of young people. I want to see the results. Well, Joe?