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21.2.08

Legislators whiff trying to reach ethics gold standard

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal wanted to go for the gold rather than titanium standard as far as ethics changes were concerned for state elected, appointed, and other public officials, perhaps as a bow to political reality. He certainly won’t get the titanium standard, and he may not even get the gold standard.

Louisiana’s legislators reared their obstinate heads yesterday and today in refusing to ban allowing family members on payrolls of political campaigns, in continuing to permit free tickets to be given to them by non-lobbyists for non-sporting events, passing on forbidding any expenditures for food and drink for state and local employees by setting the limit at $50 per occasion, and declining to outlaw contingency fees for lobbyists. Adding to that refusal to make campaign finance records collect data on donations from employees of corporate entities makes the silver standard the only certain achievable award to be given for this effort.

How fast government service can alter one’s thinking and priorities was shown through remarks by Republican freshman state Rep. Patrick Connick, who railed against the prohibition on family member employment by a campaign. He averred it was no business for the law to tell him on whom to spend his campaign money and said the voters could dun him if they didn’t like any potential employment of his relatives – conveniently forgetting that most expenditures made within the last 30 days of a campaigning do not get revealed until after the election, meaning voters might not find out about employment of a family member until after an election.

Democrat State Rep. Damon Baldone equally was at fault for disingenuous rhetoric when he claimed not allowing lobbyists to work on contingency – meaning they get more money for successful outcomes – was matter of free speech. How a results-oriented fee which tempts corruption and is banned in many states relates to free speech is beyond me and I suspect anybody else with a pulse, except for at least 58 legislators – mostly Democrats – who went along with voting down the bill passed unanimously in the Senate.

Concerning some free tickets and the dining credits, legislators seemed to dismiss the reality that they are part-time public servants who can just as easily conduct business in their offices or free fora without necessitating their receiving something of value as part of it. If they do not subscribe to this philosophy, as mentioned before they are welcome to pursue alternative ways to serve the public.

No doubt what will come out of the session, which could close as early as tomorrow, is a significant improvement over the laws presently addressing ethics. As well, it’s a great deal to expect to produce legislation at such odds with the political culture long ingrained within the psyche of the state’s citizens. Nevertheless, these misses are disappointing.

2 comments:

Daniel Z. said...

The legislature is absolutely to blame for not passing some things that should be passed.

However, Bobby Jindal was not pushing for the gold standard either. He was pushing for an ethics smokescreen. Remember, HE is the one who said that most of our ethical problems are about the perception of ethical problems.

Jeff Sadow said...

There's real substance in the Jindal's proposals, both those that made it through and those that didn't. But, he could have aimed higher, and he was too hyperbolic when he declared the results a "grand slam."