The Democrats in the State House have been conducting their version of ‘damage control’ to dodge the political fallout from the ‘pay to play’ scandals in the House.
What’s their strategy? Well, it’s to pass meaningless reforms and then to proclaim from the rooftops that they have solved the problem. When, in fact, they have passed a bill that does virtually nothing.
How meaningless are their reforms? They put a limit on gifts from lobbyists to legislators of $1,000. But, as one Republican legislator said, What does that mean? Even my wife never gave me a $1,000 gift, even for Christmas. It’s not much of a limit.
Second, the House Democrats took the ban on lobbyists raising money for Speaker Black out of their so-called ‘Reform Bill.’ That takes the only thing out of the bill that would put a crimp in ‘pay to play.’
Nonetheless, their strategy is working.
They are betting they can convince voters – at least until the election – that they have drained the swamp and they’ve talked about their reforms (and how they are cleaning up politics) so loud and long they’ve received a wind-fall of publicity.
The Senate Democrats have a little different strategy. They seem to be taking the scandals a little more seriously. Maybe.
The Senate Democrats killed video poker. They repealed Speaker Black’s eye exams for children. And they have stopped optometrists from writing blank checks – with the amount filled in but not the recipients’ name – to politicians. And they are talking tougher than the House about reform, saying the House bill is not tough enough.
But they have yet to produce their own, tougher, bill.
Give the Democratic Senators credit for a couple of real reforms. But only time will tell if they do actually write a tougher reform bill than the House – or if their tough talk is just a flim-flam.
What about the poor Republicans?
The Republicans should be exposing the Democrats’ scandals at the tops of their lungs. They should be calling for tougher, real reforms. They should be exposing more examples of ‘pay to play’ scandals.
What about the legislation the House just killed to pass a moratorium to stop out-of-state companies from building huge trash dumps in North Carolina? Is there a little ‘pay to play’ going on there? Those companies have hired a healthy list of lobbyists – including Governor Easley’s campaign treasurer, Davis Horne.
Instead, bafflingly, the Republican strategy has been to say, Me, too. They lined up and voted for the House Democrats’ Reform bill. And when they did they gave the Democrats a pretty good way to say this fall, Look, even the Republicans agree we’ve cleaned up the mess. They voted for our bill.
The Republicans should change direction. Instead of, Me, too, they should say, No way. What the Democrats are doing won’t really do a thing to clean up these scandals. Then they should tell voters what they will do, and say, If you really want to clean up this mess vote for us this fall.
Then voters get the last word.
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