07/22/06 — LOBBYISTS: Should they be disenfranchised?

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LOBBYISTS: Should they be disenfranchised?

A measure before the General Assembly at this writing would bar registered lobbyists from serving in a broad number of public positions.

They would not be allowed to serve on state commissions and boards — including boards of trustees of any of our universities.

There are ample reasons to have restrictions some activities of lobbyists, including perhaps, scrutiny of some of their financial involvements with legislators.

In short, they shouldn’t be able to “buy” influence.

And there are laws on the books already to control this. Where there have been abuses, closer attention and adjustments are appropriate.

But the public needs to recognize that lobbyists are valuable assets to governments. No legislator can be knowledgeable on every issue affecting every industry, institution and agency. Lobbyists, with their expertise and input, are invaluable resource people to our decision-makers.

And the vast majority not only are experts in their fields, they are people of integrity — and vision. They are respected citizens or they wouldn’t be chosen to represent their clients, or maintain any level of influence.

A measure that would preclude the service of lobbyists on various state boards and commissions is unfair to them — and to the institutions to which they could make valuable contributions.

Existing laws of conflict of interest afford ample protection.

It should not be necessary for a person to be disenfranchised — to forfeit his or her right of full citizenship — to be a lobbyist.

Published in Editorials on July 22, 2006 11:06 PM