There is a simple – but drastic – step the legislature could take to prevent the kind of controversy swirling around North Carolina’s lottery: Ban fundraising (and even entertaining) by lobbyists.
South Carolina already does that. North Carolina now bans lobbyists from making campaign contributions during legislative sessions, but not between sessions.
North Carolina’s legislature passed a law this year that will require lobbyists to start reporting “good will” entertainment expenditures in 2007.
Why not go all the way and ban both contributions and entertainment?
Truth is, a lot of lobbyists would like a blanket prohibition. They privately complain about being hit up by legislators for contributions and fundraising help. But they’re in a position where it’s hard to say no.
In effect, lobbyists become unpaid fundraisers for the politicians. That’s bad government.
The amount of money spent in Raleigh on “good will” entertaining (that’s where, supposedly, no specific legislation is discussed) is enormous. So much that I expect this idea to be vehemently opposed by the city’s finer dining establishments.
Legislators could still have lunch, dinner or drinks with lobbyists. They would just have to pay their own way. They might end up eating and drinking less. That would be not only ethically, but also physically healthier.