How can the average citizen get the attention of a Representative when lobbyists are at their beck and call with expensive meals and all the extra perks our lawmakers have come to expect? The answer is, they can’t. That’s why special interest groups flourish while the average small business person flounders. Would it change anything if limits were put on lobbyists gifts, or as some people think, would it only cause our Representatives to hide the loot?
Many people are frustrated at their lack of access to legislators and are stunned at the influence powerful lobbyist and special interests have over lawmakers. The average citizens gains scant attention. They don’t have the thousands of dollars to send lawmakers on vacations or fly them around the country.
They are merely the voters who put them in office expecting a fair deal. The mother who drives a hundred miles to petition her Representative for healthy school lunches, The owner of a car repair shop who petitions for tax reform. They have no expensive gifts to offer. They are lobbyists too. But do they get their foot in the door? Not likely. The only time these people get any attention is at election time.
We need some changes in our ethics laws that will open up the ears of lawmakers as wide to that mother and small business owner as to powerful special interest groups. Would a cap on lobbyists gifts work? And how much should it be? Some lobbyists feel that $100. is too little because some of the restaurants lawmakers are taken to cost much more than $100. a meal.
How is it that they live in such a luxurious style that they expect a meal that costs over $100 dollars? In my opinion, an honest Representative of the people should live like the people he represents. My question is why do lawmakers feel they are entitled to any gifts at all. They are elected by the people and should be working for the best interest of the people, not the special interests groups that offer them the most expensive gifts. I feel the cap should be zero.
Some say limiting gifts will only hide the influence of lobbyists. States were ranked in 2010 using years of federal data submitted to the FBI by local government. Tennessee ranked number one in overall corruption and number 18 in in public corruption. Florida ranked 12th in public corruption. Both of these states have limits on gifts from lobbyists.
Tennessee banned gifts from lobbyists in 1995, yet, in spite of the ban, in 2005 four Representatives and eight other people pleaded guilty or were convicted in the “Operation Tennessee Waltz,” a statewide bribery sting conducted in the state’s capitol.
Georgia has no limits and was ranked in the bottom 25% of the scale in public corruption. That’s why it’s thought by many that limiting lobbyists does not decrease corruption. It is also thought that caps would hide which lobbyists are lobbying which Representatives.
Also, Representatives are required to report lobbyist expenditures every 15 days, if gifts were prohibited there would be no reporting and more room for shady maneuvers. Politics is a dirty business and it seems that every elected official is out to fill his own pockets at the expense of the people who voted him in.