Monday, October 08, 2007
A Good Thing
A newcomer has to get the lay of the land. I’m still in the neophyte stage here in Springfield, but I was struck by the wisdom of two local legislators.
The Springfield News-Leader, our local Gannett-owned paper, had a Sunday front-page story about what gifts lobbyists had given to state legislators, their staffs or family. Now first off, I will say this. None of the gifts was extravagant or expensive. Most were food or tickets.
Several legislators felt the need to defend accepting the gifts. The gifts “don’t influence” votes and, “I’m going to vote my conscience, period,” said one. Another remarked that the lobbyists “can be useful sources of information about issues facing the legislature.”And according to the paper, the same legislator pointed out that group dinners are a good way for the lobbyists to have their say. I suppose that’s kind of like killing two birds with one stone (not that I’m advocating killing birds).
However, out of 13 legislators, two repaid all the freebies. The paper quotes one as saying, “If I’m going to be voting on something, I’d just as soon buy my own dinner and pay my own bills. That way, I don’t have to worry about where the line’s drawn.” The other fellow said, “I’m a big boy, and I can pay for my own meals.” Neither of these two, however, was critical of those legislators who did accept gifts and one defended lobbyists by saying, “They have a purpose, as long as you understand that purpose . . .”
Rep. Jay Wasson and Rep. Mick Cunningham deserve a pat on the back for their personal stance. But what do you suppose would happen if all of our state and federal representatives chose to turn away the free lunch? Perhaps, with apologies to Martha Stewart, it would be a good thing.