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.