07/07/06 — Getting serious: Tougher ethics rules would be good move for state leaders

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Getting serious: Tougher ethics rules would be good move for state leaders

There should not be a need for tougher ethics rules in North Carolina. In a perfect world, legislators would know how unseemly it is to take gifts and excessive campaign contributions from a political interest group.

After all, it really is basic common sense and a little bit of that honor and integrity many of their parents must have taught them when they were little tikes.

But unfortunately, there seems to be a memory vacuum for many legislators at the state and national levels when they get into office.

Some of them forget immediately for whom they are supposed to be working and turn instead to whoever has the loudest voice — and in some cases the deepest pockets.

Perhaps it is the lure of the golf vacations, fancy meals and helicopter rides to exotic locales that turns their heads. Or maybe it is the fancy parties and freebie dinners at some of the nation’s best restaurants.

No matter what the siren is, there is no question that someone needs to think of some way to make sure they keep their eyes and votes focused on who elected them in the first place.

So, the fact that there is a coalition of people in North Carolina who want to make sure legislators don’t leave Raleigh without discussing ethics reform is good news.

In a perfect world, legislators would instinctively know right from wrong. They would know that taking a free trip from a multi-national corporation before voting on a measure that directly affects the company’s business would be a no-no. They would also know that lobbyists’ influence should not be measured by the number of dollars contributed to a politician’s campaign.

And many of them do. There is no reason to believe that every politician who heads to Raleigh or Washington, D.C., has dollar signs in his or her eyes.

But firming up the state’s ethics rules will give future legislators a guideline — and future voters a sense of security when it comes to who is doing what with their votes.

There is plenty of time to consider ethics reform before the General Assembly heads home. Real discussions and real analysis are critical jobs still ahead.

Ethics reforms will not make the legislative process perfect, and there will still be some politicians who don’t get it. That is just how it is.

But talking about standards and consequences could be the first step in getting the people’s business done in not only a more efficient manner, but with more of an eye to what is truly best for North Carolina.

Published in Editorials on July 7, 2006 11:11 AM