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‘Pay to Play’ is the name the media has given the scandals that are going on in Raleigh. It means, roughly, lobbyists ‘pay’ (by making contributions) – if they want legislators to ‘play’ (listen to them or act on what they want) in Raleigh.

To be fair to the lobbyists, they aren’t enamored about raising and giving thousands of dollars (in political donations) to politicians. In fact, it is the politicians who created ‘pay to play’ – not the lobbyists.

And the politicians who created, and who have practiced ‘pay to play’ most, are Democrats – because Democrats control the State Legislature and the Governorship.

Now we have the chairman of the State Democratic Party calling for ‘Lobbying Reform.’ But what he is proposing is window dressing – not real reform. If what he proposes becomes law. It means a few helpful but basically cosmetic reforms will take place – that won’t end ‘pay for play.’ Because politicians will go right on raising money for lobbyists.

The way to end ‘pay for play’ is simple: make it illegal for politicians to ask lobbyists (or their clients) to give or raise money for them. In other words, anyone wanting something like a contract, a bill, a tax break, an incentive out of government cannot give a contribution to any politician who has a role in making that decision.

The problem is this is how Democrats fund their campaigns – so they’re not anxious to end ‘pay for play.’ In fact, only one major Democratic leader has come out for banning lobbyists’ donations: House Speaker Jim Black.

It will be interesting to see if Senate Leader Marc Basnight and Governor Easley – and for that matter, Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meeks – join Black in calling for banning lobbyist donations.

If they do, it will put a hole in ‘pay for play.’ If they don’t it means they (or at least Senator Basnight since the Governor can’t run again) will go right on raising money from lobbyists.

The Democrats gave us ‘pay for play’ and, right now, only the Democrats have the power to end it. That ball, for now, is in Senator Basnight’s court. Unless he joins Speaker Black in endorsing banning lobbyist donations it is hard to see how the Senate will pass any meaningful reforms.


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One comment on “Pay to Play

  1. cwrenn says:

    Would your proposal mean that nobody could give any donations to gubernatorial candidates because nearly everyone is affected by state government?

    Comment by Justin — February 28, 2006 @ 3:05 pm

    Actually “Pay to Play” goes far beyond lobbyists.

    In fact, look at the Southport Marina deal. While limited on details – the deal went to the Council of State for approval for a group of developers from Wilmington to hold the contract to operate the Marina. Curious to see that the lead person of the Wilmington developers group, Nick Garrett, donated $4,000 to AG Roy Cooper. (Mr Cooper recently announced his push for ethics reform – I would think he could start by refunding Mr Garrett’s contribution – and any others that have business/contracts in front of the AG or Council of State.) Not sure who else received contributions from Garrett – or other investors in the Marina deal but remember Southport is the home of Mike Easley….and the deal was approved by the Council of State in January 2006.

    So what a new law entitled “NO Pay to Play” should be about is no political contributions from vendors, their PACs or their primiary management/immediate family members that hold a contract (competitively bid or sole source) for products or professional services – or for any contract that may be out for bid, or upcoming for bid in a specific amount of time.

    Also, while on the topic of ethics and reform. The ban on gifts from lobbyists is great – but – it should also reach out to all state employees – a ban on any gift from a vendor, lobbyists, etc.

    Reform? Heck yes – but if you are going to do it – let’s go all the way and get it done the right way the first time. One state to look at is Connecticut – the Governor has been pushing for major reforms across all of government.

    Comment by Abe — February 28, 2006 @ 5:58 pm

    “Also, while on the topic of ethics and reform. The ban on gifts from lobbyists is great – but – it should also reach out to all state employees – a ban on any gift from a vendor, lobbyists, etc.”

    Intriguing proposal. Since we are at it, why not a ban on contributions by the teachers’ union (NCAE) PAC? Their lobbying effort seems focused mainly on securing benefits for themselves at public expense, regardless of the negative impact on students, parents, taxpayers, or the public education system. If all others who stand to benefit from government largess are so restrained, why should they not be as well?

    Comment by Jim Stegall — February 28, 2006 @ 9:41 pm

    Another lobbying reform issue that has not been discussed is banning lobbyists from being appointed to serve on Boards and Commissions by the Senate, House, Governor and Lt Governor.

    Comment by Abe — March 1, 2006 @ 11:49 pm

    Jim there already is a ban on State Employees taking gifts from Vendors unfortunaly it does not apply to legislators.

    Comment by CJH — March 2, 2006 @ 6:30 am

    I know. I was using Abe’s post to draw the parallel between the role played by the NCAE PAC vis-a-vis legislators, and that of vendors vis-a-vis government employees. If we restrict legislators from accepting ‘gifts’ from vendors (a good idea), we should bar ‘gifts’ (campaign contributions) from the NCAE PAC as well, since they have so much to gain by influencing legislators’ votes.

    Comment by Jim Stegall — March 2, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    I agree, perhaps they can revisit things like the lottery commission, state employees with better perks, Highway patrol troopers getting an automatic 5% on top of what other state employees get or don’t get, and the judicial branch being able to retire after only 20 years. Also don’t stop at the NCAE how about no PAC contributions at all!

    Comment by CJH — March 3, 2006 @ 6:23 am

    No PAC contributions at all? Then all contributions would be by what–individuals alone? No more right of the people to peaceably assemble (form associations) and demand redress of grievences (lobby their government, contribute to candidates who support their causes)?

    I don’t see how that squares with the concept of free, open, vigorous political debate guarnateed by the First Amendment.

    Comment by Jim Stegall — March 3, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

    So Jim are you saying there are good PACs and Bad PACs???? No money from NCAE PAC but other PACs are OK???? I dont see how paying off legislators with PAC money to get them to vote one way or the other has anything to do with free speech. Look at what the optomotrist PAC did with Jim Black (Blank checks) constitue Free Speech? Or how about all the PAC money that abramoff give congressman does that constitute free speech? If you look at most political scandals they involve PAC money. So if you cut it out you can clean it up.

    Comment by Chris — March 5, 2006 @ 9:24 am

    “So Jim are you saying there are good PACs and Bad PACs????”

    Well, DUHHH! (admit it, you think so too)

    “No money from NCAE PAC but other PACs are OK????”

    No, not at all. Gotta treat them all the same, long as they’re abiding by the rules.

    There are responsible PACs out there that don’t pass out envelopes full of unsigned checks and expect quid pro quo. There is nothing wrong (and everything right) with citizens pooling their resources to support a candidate with whom they agree, or to oppose one with whom they disagree. In my view, democracy is impossible without that kind of citizen participation. I’m sorry you don’t see what that has to do with free speech. Frankly I can’t understand how anyone could NOT see what that has to do with free speech, but thank God and the founding fathers we’re free to argue that point, at least for now.

    What I have argued for in this thread and others is greater transparency and faster reporting of PAC contributions. The voters ought to know, before entering the voting booth, who is funding which candidate’s campaign, and by how much.

    I mentioned the NCAE’s PAC simply because the focus in this discussion seemed to be on business PACs, and I thought that some of those who support doing away with PACs altogether might think twice if they realized that some of their favorite hard-left organizations might be negatively impacted by that. As much as I dislike the dirty rotten tactics and anti-child agenda of the NCAE, I think as long as we have PACs the law should treat them the same as it treats the tobacco industry PAC, the liquor industry PAC, the trial lawyers PAC…you get the picture.

    Comment by Jim Stegall — March 5, 2006 @ 11:47 am

    Jim, I don’t think the founding farthers were thinking of PACs when they wrote “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” As a mater of fact I think they might just be turning over in their graves if they saw the way that money influences our legislative process these days. How about this one Public financing of political campaigns. That could totally eliminate PAC and Make us the taxpayer/voter the guiding vehicle of our elections. It also takes the tainted money out of the system.

    Comment by CJH — March 6, 2006 @ 9:47 am

    You’re right. The founding fathers weren’t thinking of PACs when they wrote the First Amendment–but they weren’t thinking of government regulation of campaign spending either. I’m sure it never occurred to any of them that the government they were establishing would ever assume the power to tell a citizen or group of citizens how much he or they could contribute to a political campaign, or how much a candidate could spend. And while I agree that the founding fathers would be turning over in their graves at the conduct of many of today’s PACs, as well as the po
    liticians they enable, I doubt they would rescind the freedoms they had just enshrined in order to remedy those abuses.

    I have many problems with public financing of political campaigns, especially those which attempt to limit how much a candidate can spend to advance his cause, or when he can spend it. If that’s not a restriction on free speech, then what is? And I disagree most vigorously with your contention that taking PAC money out of the system puts the voter in charge. I think it puts the media in charge, with sadly predicatble results, since they remain free to speak at length on political issues and there is no way to check their political slant, as any attempt to do so would be attacked (rightly) as a gross restriction of free speech.

    I think that we have to understand that as long as we are dealing with human beings (which technically includes politicians, lobbyists,, there will always be some level of corruption and ‘gaming’ of the system. But I’d rather err on the side of free speech and trust the people to ‘throw the bums out’ when it gets too bad, than sharpshoot the system to oblivion trying to get it perfect.

    Comment by Jim Stegall — March 6, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

    Hot off the press!!! A unanimous Supreme Court ruling today sheds some more light on this arguement. Writing for court, Chief Justice John Roberts states:

    “T]he First Amendment’s protection extends beyond the right to speak. We have recognized a First Amendment right to associate for the purpose of speaking, which we have termed a “right of expressive association.” … The reason we have extended First Amendment protection in this way is clear: The right to speak is often exercised most effectively by combining one’s voice with the voices of others. … If the government were free to restrict individuals’ ability to join together and speak, it could essentially silence views that the First Amendment is intended to protect.”

    Of course this case had nothing to do with campaign finance reform, but the principal is the same.

    Comment by Jim Stegall — March 6, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

    Jim I guess we will agree to disagree on this one, With reard to limits on campaign spending I am very much for that. The amount of money one has or how he can spend it in a campaign would lead to exclusions. I also have no problem with people pulling together on an issue so their voices can be heard, but there does need to be limits. The kind of free wheeling spending or quite frankly mis representation of facts that are so prevelant in cmapigns today sickens me. But then again I am just a sole voice in the wilderness.

    Comment by CJH — March 6, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

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