01/10/06 — THE BRIGHT SIDE: Most politicians, lobbyists are good

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THE BRIGHT SIDE: Most politicians, lobbyists are good

“Lobbyists.” “Politicians.” Increasingly in recent years, the words have tended to spawn public suspicion, disfavor. Even repugnance.

But so has the word “media.”

Let’s pause to reflect and examine.

There are, indeed, as recent headlines proclaim, some lobbyists and politicians whose activities have created - or exacerbated - an already unfavorable public image. And no less than The New York Times and some of our longtime TV network anchors have emerged with egg on their faces.

But are lobbyists, politicians - and the “media” - intrinsically bad?

To the contrary, lobbyists play an important role in good government. No elected officials can be expected to know everything about every issue. Neither can the people they represent be knowledgeable about the potential effects or every bill that enters the legislative hopper.

But traveling the halls of the legislature will be people who are thoroughly versed on matters that are of concern to their respective clients. These people are called lobbyists.

They brief the lawmakers either in private or at committee hearings on the significance of the bills.

Are they spokesmen for “special interests?” Of course. And all of us have our own “special interests”- whether we are operators of small businesses, developers, members of town councils or county commissioners, sportsmen or members of the Humane Society, or simply drive our cars on the highways.

Elected officials must be sensitive to all those interests and strive for a fair balance in creating laws.

The notion that legislators or congressmen make their decisions based on having been wined and dined, entertained and bribed with gifts and trips simply isn’t true in the vast majority of cases.

There are a few greedy and short-sighted lawmakers who do not put the overall best interests of the folks back home - and of the state or nation - first. They do not or should not escape detection for long.

And that’s where those of us at the grassroots have the ultimate responsibility. We must be vigilant and convey our concerns to our elected officials. If there is a pattern of their being irresponsive to our concerns, they are answerable to the ballot box.

Citizens who made no effort to keep up with what’s going on - and especially those who do not vote - seriously compromise their right to complain.

If there are bad people in public office, we can blame no one but ourselves.

But, thankfully, most of us can rejoice in the fact that we have many good, honest, hard-working people representing us. And they are all “politicians.”

Published in Editorials on January 10, 2006 10:28 AM