Friday, February 03, 2006

With $4.95 Million Riding On Their Wager, Did You Really Think The Lobbyists Were Going To Sit By Lose?

Lobbyists around the state house are denying any influence over a Republican "alternative" ethics bill--supported by Democrats in the House and Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen (who all but scoffed to a reporter on the recent Nissan relocation that making deals is more important than having ideals)--that would gut the original ethics bill's intention to limit the ability of lobbyists to pay off legislators in return for favorable votes. They can deny to their hearts content, but the Tennessean obtained a "list of concerns" of the lobbyists. It's on there. At least one legislator says that lobbyists approached him about the issue. Lobbyists with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry sent off a newsletter to its 2,000 members urging business leaders to contact legislators on the matter. But even without the Tennessean's evidence, it doesn't take much to connect the dots between truckloads of lobbyists' money and their influence over a Republican-initiated and Blue-Dog-Democrat-supported bill designed to kill ethics reform and make the state safe for unfettered private profits.

But how does the Republican sponsor justify the killing? By the ridiculous charge that, since lobbyist groups would have to hire a person to monitor and to assure ethical behavior, they would be paying a "hidden tax." Cry me a river of tears. God forbid that they take some of the money to pay monitors from that $4.95 million per year that they dump into legislators' laps. Call it a tax if you like; I'd call it a small price to pay for ethical business leadership. I guess the lobbyists believe that ethical conduct just costs too much money; it doesn't make good business sense.

But given their overeager profit motives, might the shadier lobbyists be most concerned that hiring ethics monitors might cost them even more money when they have to bribe those officials to look the other way? That would amount to "double-secret-taxation."

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