Monday, January 12, 2015

Influence Peddlers And Taskmasters

Oklahoma Chamber President, Fred Morgan with
 new Senator Jack Fry, at the Governor's Mansion

When Do Lobbyists Go Too Far?

  The Ruling Class has once again set up their figurative trade show booths in the halls and conference rooms of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Nothing new here, nothing to see. Move along... No Loitering!
  The average Oklahoman will rarely ever get a small sense of how the organized lobbying class has declared ownership of some lawmakers. Some are so fully "whipped" that they don't ever know what their position on a bill is, until they're gotten the memo from the lobbyists who've bought them and their office.

Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce uses
Governor's Mansion & Staff for part of their
Lobbying event, to peddle influence upon the new
legislators of the 2015 session.
   So where are the boundaries? When does a lawmaker draw a line? And where do the ethics rules and state laws come into play?

  What are the reporting rules when a politician is sent on an all-expense-paid trip to a "conference in the Caribbean (2014 National Popular Vote lobby)?
  What happens when a lawmaker lets a lobbyist use government facilities for coordinated events like the recent Oklahoma Chamber's "Evening at the Governor's Mansion"?
  As with most issues, there is the legal code of state statutes regarding criminal behavior. This would be the most egregious scenario where abuse of office and misuse of state assets is used for lobbying interests.
  Beyond that, there are ethics rules for members of the legislature. While this would not pertain to criminal offenses, it would still potentially lead to a member of the legislature being removed from office.
  And lastly, there's the "Smell Test".  While not all bad behavior is a violation of a written rule; some things are just abhorrent to the Oklahoma standards of decency for the comportment of a civic leader. The manner of rectifying these instances of misconduct is through the ballot box, protest, or a personal appeal for a leader to "get help".

  I'm proud to be an Okie, but I'm not blind to the reality that our state has a rather embarrassing history of corruption in our elected officials. While I don't blame the current crop of leaders for the past decades, I do sometimes wonder if a systemic disorder may be lingering in our state whereby we don't have sufficient safeguards in our system. Or maybe we just don't exercise the discipline to follow the safeguard rules we made after the last big corruption case.
  In any case, we somehow think that since our intentions are good, therefore our actions cannot be assailable.  I used to manage a chain of retail outlets and I knew that our staff was our most essential asset. But I always let our good people know that any of us is capable of falling, provided we are left to a sufficient enough amount of temptation. And being lax in our inspections & audits, might just provide the catalyst for corruption to take hold.
David Van Risseghem

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