Those who visit the capitol at lunch or dinner time are likely to notice the dependency/entitlement mindset of some of its occupants. The careful observer may overhear the efforts of lawmakers to enjoy a first class meal at someone else’s expense: “Let’s find a lobbyist to take us out,” or “I’ve got XYZ lobbyist lined up for XYZ steakhouse, are you coming?”
There’s something so very unhealthy when a person has the frequent expectancy that someone else will pick up the tab. It corrupts the soul and creates a mindset of entitlement and dependency upon others.
It’s a bad system: the lawmaker gets a first class meal without dipping into his per-diem check; the lobbyist gets face time with those who will be voting on the bills that could have millions of dollars of impact to his clients, potentially at the expense of the taxpayer; and, the taxpayer, the person ultimately affected by this unfortunate arrangement, is eating a sack lunch during a brief break in his busy work day.
You have probably heard your elected official say, “Lobbyist gifts don’t affect me. I am never selling my vote for a meal.”
This logic would never be acceptable if it was from a judge who allowed an attorney to frequently pay his tab. Nor would a state purchasing officer be able to say “it’s okay for me to let a contractor give me gifts; I would never compromise my integrity.”
In many areas of life, professionals are governed by a code of conduct that prevents them from creating an appearance of impropriety.
There are several conscientious legislators who agree with the sentiment that lobbyist gift-giving is problematic and should end. Over the years an ever-growing number have placed a sign in their office declaring that they do not want to receive lobbyist gifts.
However, you may have seen a recent report that showed only two of us were able to successfully navigate the gift-giving gauntlet and refuse all gifts during the last legislative session. Worse, the amount of reported gift-giving has dramatically increased.
I think this increase in gift-giving should be seen as the final straw. It’s time for lawmakers to get off welfare and live under the same standard of code of ethics that applies to other professionals.
I intend to sponsor legislation that would put an end to the practice of lobbyist gift-giving. It’s time for lawmakers to pick up their own meal tickets and pay for their own entertainment. If state purchasing officers can do it, then so can their legislators.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.