Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ethics, Post-Chandler

If any good came out of the fall of former House Speaker Gene Chandler, it is a renewed focus on ethical standards of conduct in the legislature. For too long, the relationship between legislators and lobbyists has been distressingle informal, and standards of conduct disturbingly lax.

The Election Law Committee held hearings on a number of proposals yesterday, including my bill, HB 621. This bill would require candidates to itemize contributions from registered lobbyists on their campaign finance reports, and would require lobbyists to file an itemized statements of all gifts and contributions with the Secretary of State's office.

The purpose of this measure is to bring some transparency and accountability to the process. The average citizen does not know the names of the lobbyists who patrol the halls of the State House. The campaign finance reports are currently of little help; it is easy to disguise a lobbyist's donation by listing their occupation as "lawyer" or "consultant", thus raising no red flags. If a candidate is willing to accept money from someone with a vested interest in the outcome of specific legislation, then they should be willing to let their constituents know the facts. By providing this information, we can make it possible for people to learn if their elected officials are representing the public interest or some special interest.