posted on July 05, 2006 13:48
Republicans are hoping the ‘pay to play’ scandals swirling around Speaker Jim Black will help them retake control of the State House this fall. So it sounds odd that a Republican, Representative Paul Stam, has introduced a bill to delete a key provision from the legislation to end ‘pay to play.’
Money and campaign contributions go right to the heart of these scandals. But Rep. Stam wants to repeal the ban prohibiting lobbyists from raising money for legislators.
A House Committee dominated by Democrats – gleefully, one suspects – reported out Stam’s bill. Now it goes to the full house.
Representative Stam argues we must delete the ban because it violates lobbyists’ first amendment right to free speech (in this case expressing themselves by raising money for legislators).
That argument may not be popular, and it’s certainly not going to help Republicans in the elections this fall, but Representative Stam has a point.
It’s hard to argue that making it illegal for someone to give to the politician of their choice is not a limit on their free speech (no matter how unsavory their reasons for making that donation may be).
On the other hand, the courts have long recognized corruption – and it’s hard to argue ‘pay to play’ isn’t corruption – is one of the few legitimate reasons to limit political speech.
But that’s not my point.
Here’s my point: if Rep. Stam and the House Republicans want to stand up for the First Amendment, fine. But they should go a step further.
They should require lobbyists – every time one makes a contribution or raises money for a legislator – to immediately disclose why.
For instance, if a lobbyist contributes to Representative John Doe the lobbyist should immediately disclose that he or she is also trying to get Representative Doe to vote for a $400,000 grant to, say, the Teapot Museum.
Then the public would see not just the money the lobbyist raised for Rep. Doe but what Rep. Doe may have done for it in return. That might not end ‘pay to play’ but it would make it a lot riskier for Rep. Doe.
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