House Speaker Jim Black has been the focus of most of the press reports about these scandals but right now just about every politician seems to be talking about the need to clean up politics. But the truth is what they call cleaning up is just putting a fresh coat of paint over the same old fence.
They’re using words like “openness,” “access” and “transparency” in describing what they call lobbying reform – but that’s political double-talk for let’s do as little as possible and declare we fixed the problem.
The only way to end these scandals is to make it illegal for a politician to ask a lobbyist (or anyone else) who wants a government grant, job, subsidy, contract, etc., for money – for political donations. In other words, pass a law that says if a lobbyist (or a lobbyist’s client) wants something from government like a contract or a special tax break for their company they can’t give contributions to the politicians who get to make that decision. That eliminates even the appearance of a quid pro quo. And puts a hole in ‘pay to play.’
But, by and large, ‘pay for play’ was created, or at least practiced most, by Democratic politicians – because, after all, they’re the ones who control the legislature and the Governor’s office. And only one Democrat leader has endorsed banning lobbyists’ donations. Guess who: Speaker Jim Black.
Now, maybe, this is a case of the return of the prodigal son but whatever his reason Speaker Black has endorsed a real reform. The question is what are Marc Basnight – and Governor Mike Easley – going to do?
Because real reform is going no where unless Senator Basnight endorses it in the Senate. So the question now is will Senator Basnight and Governor Easley join Speaker Black in endorsing a real reform – that will help stop ‘pay to play’ – or are they going to pass cosmetic changes that will let them go on raising money from lobbyists?