Thursday, August 1, 2019

Looking at the Lobbyists

Here we go again.  The Clarion-Ledger took up it's usual task of cracking down on lobbying:

Mississippi's leading gubernatorial candidates all say they would support a law restricting lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and other public officials.

Under current state law, lobbyists can spend as much as they want on free dinners, sports tickets, hotels and other freebies for lawmakers. That makes the Magnolia State an outlier: A majority of states have laws that either ban gifts outright — even a cup of coffee — or place caps on how much an official can receive in a year.

A recent Clarion Ledger investigation found the state's public universities alone doled out $350,000 in gifts to state officials in the past four years — much of it free tickets to sporting events. Several lawmakers received more than $7,000 in freebies over that period.

The Clarion Ledger recently interviewed the six leading candidates for governor, and all said they would support some type of gift law....

Several states have passed restrictive gift laws in recent years. For example, Georgia capped gifts at $75 and outlawed entertainment, Missouri now limits gifts at $5, and Kentucky banned them altogether.

Tom Hood, executive director of the Mississippi Ethics Commission, previously told the Clarion Ledger the state's lack of gift restrictions is a "good example of a shortcoming in our laws." Mark Davies, a Fordham University law professor and ethics expert, explained such laws are important to protect against graft, or the appearance of it. Rest of article.

Frankly, most of the lobbyists would welcome such a ban. The reporter hasn't exactly been around politics much in his career. Legislators aren't going to give away their votes over a few steak dinners or some booze. If anything, it is usually the legislators who usually extort the lobbyists. Heaven help the poor lobbyist who walks into Ticos during a session. Suddenly half a dozen knuckleheads are sticking her with the bill. Indeed, several years ago, two Senators placed bets on how high they could run up the bill for a dinner for four at Ticos that night. The bill was well over a thousand dollars and they stuck the lobbyist with the tab (Right, Merle?).

However, there is one part of lobbying that flies under the radar as well as the noses of all reporters. While the state newspaper goes after lobbying legislators, it completely ignores the lobbying of state agencies. Section 83-5-1 of the Mississippi Code states:

(k) “Lobbying” means:
(i) Influencing or attempting to influence legislative or executive action through oral or
written communication; or
(ii) Solicitation of others to influence legislative or executive action; or...
(l) “Lobbyist” means:
(i) An individual who is employed and receives payments, or who contracts for economic consideration, including reimbursement for reasonable travel and living expenses, for the purpose of lobbying;

The penalty is a fine up to $1,000 or a maximum prison sentence of six months. 

State agencies award billions of dollars in contracts. However, those who lobby state agencies often do not register nor report their compensation, keeping the public in the dark about who they represent.  These "consultants' claim they are not lobbyists since they are not lobbying the legislature.   Indeed, one well-known lobbyist actually registered three clients this year and six clients last year while reporting zero compensation.  It must be nice to be rich enough to work for free on a full-time basis. The "consultants" show up at IHL Board meetings when contracts are discussed yet the representation is often unreported.  Chris Epps used unregistered lobbyists to award contracts and receive kickbacks from his favored few. Meanwhile, the ethical lobbyists dutifully register their clients, compensation, gifts, and jump through other hoops.

Mississippi government is indeed for sale but unfortunately, few know who the buyers are until it is too late.


Anonymous said...

No doubt, KF that honest and competent lobbyists and legislatures would support more restrictive laws, but unfortunately, many of both are neither.
It is also true, that lobbyists are at the mercy of those for whom they are lobbying to keep their jobs and not all of those entities are lobbying for other than their own interests.
I particularly think it is unnecessary and inappropriate for State agencies and State supported groups to pay for outside lobbyists. All monies, especially tax dollars should go to their mission. And, they should have heads that are capable of defending their requests.
While the steak may not buy a vote, the flattery and promises of helping the legislator get re-elected do. I've watched guys gp into politics to make a difference and succumb to the attention they never got before election. They end up believing they are individually crucial and must stay in office . Too many even seem to think that they are suddenly and miraculously God's gift to the opposite sex as well.
Do not underestimate greed, ambition and ego.
We are selling our State and Nation away to the highest bidders.
The system is broken and those who benefit have no desire to change it. And, we are not well informed enough on what good governmental systems look like to know the changes we should demand to repair the system.

Kingfish said...

If you can, resubmit that comment. Idiot here has big thumbs and accidentally hit the delte button. It was a very good one, too. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Actions speak louder than GOP promises. There is no reason to believe any of the current candidates would follow through once campaign season is over.

Anonymous said...

I find it asinine that state agencies pay taxpayer dollars to bribe legislators to give them more state money. Budget requests should not include a vig to be considered.

Anonymous said...

Is Haley registered?

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that the other night during the Democratic Presidential Candidate they were talking about election reform and PAC funding. Most of these candidates couldn't even take the stage without these PACs and funding groups. Both sides. It has gotten out of control for everyone. Soros, Koch, & Kellog are prime examples of spreading tons of money from national to local elections.

Anonymous said...

Good work, KF. Keep it up.

C.R.E.A.M. said...

Haley is a registered Russian agent, as is Trent. Fact.

Anonymous said...

It is illegal for state agencies to use state or federal funds to hire lobbyists. You can’t even use federal funds to pay employee salaries if they do anything that can be considered lobbying. Ironic part is the legislature wants agency officials to go to the capital and kiss their asses while they are in town. Agencies do this to hopefully prevent the lying bastards from cutting their budget too much. Especially since the doughboy has been in charge of the senate.
State universities use donations from alumni to hire lobbyists and there are plenty of them around when the legislature is in session.

Anonymous said...

Leave it to KF to find a way to criticize a state agency. He pops a woody at the mention of a state agency, PERS, or a related topic. Check the facts and the money flow KF-what colleges and or agencies pay lobbyists is an extremely small percentage compared to what private industry pays. Since you’re reporting on feelings derived from a limited sample, I’ll share the truth. Lobbyists LOVE what our state laws allow. Elected officials LOVE what our state laws allow. It’s legalized bribery. I know you on,y want to complain about one small side of it, but that’s the truth.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that Merle Flowers is that kind of guy? Someone that would be sneaky and devious? Cant be true!

Anonymous said...

I well remember when the Employment Security Commission had a new female director put in place by Mabus. She hired a Deputy Director and the two of them plus a two or three department heads spent virtually the entire legislative session, each year, in the halls and offices of the legislature. As a result, the top two eventually got fired and the others wasted away; but, that doesn't dismiss the fact that for months each year, they were engaged in lobbying.

Anonymous said...

Lobbying is pure & simple bribery.

Cynical Sam said...

Money - the mother's milk of politic$.

Anonymous said...

However, those same lawmakers know how to write laws limiting what other state employees can accept. As in vendors can't bring more than doughnuts to a meeting. (All fine and good but maybe lawmakers low opinion of other state workers is largely based on their own greed.)

Anonymous said...

The thousand-dollar-tab Merle....Is he the same Merle who's mailing all the negative, fake-information fliers to houses in Madison County. Since Haggard died, there ain't that many Merle's around.

Anonymous said...

12:54 pm There are loopholes. The Boards of State agencies can entertain legislators by inviting them to their own " gatherings". The Broadwater used to be a nice free trip and the ruse was to ask the legislator to speak.
There are nicer resort trips paid for by " associations" or a "convention" that invite key legislators and State and Congress members to " speak" for a fee . The invitee also gets the trip and all it's perks as well. If the gathering is large enough ( and it can easily be) the hotel or resort will offer a few " free" rooms for the " staff" that actually get given to the " invited speaker" and the staff free rooms show up as a convention or association expense.
Then there's the come to my resort condo or hunting lodge for a social celebration or a hunt.
There's also the perks of "deals" on big ticket items like a car or house or loan.
The relationships, in time, are seen as "friendships". When you are invited to a friends birthday dinner, it's acceptable to bring a " gift".
And, do remember, " loans" can be " forgiven".
Before you pledge your loyalty to a politician, check his earned income vs his life style. How does a career politician who never makes more than his government paycheck, become a millionaire?
For God's sake, why do you think a candidate risks his own money and getting into possible debt to run for an office that could never cover that amount? Look at money donated vs money spent in campaigns. WAKE UP!

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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