Representative Jimmy Martin, of the Alabama Legislature is bummed out.
"Whoever was the mastermind of this ethics bill totally screwed up the camaraderie and fun in the Alabama Legislature."
Representative Martin is a horrible representative. I am even willing to grant the idea that he's being honest when he claims that he can't be bought for the price of a steak dinner. But what he deliberately is choosing to ignore is that when lobbyists are the ones with access to representatives, when the voice that inform our representatives are the lobbies and not the voices of voters, that colors how the representatives are going to see various issues. The danger of outright vote-buying is real, and I'm convinced the price on a vote is a Hell of a lot cheaper than Representative Martin wants you to believe - I'm remembering the Monroe County's LDC Scandal involving the former County Executive's husband scheming to award a no-bid contract to some buddies - at significantly above market rates for the work being done - and all that the man got from this was about $2000 in house work, as I recall. While the county is locked into a long term contract that is going to cost millions of dollars more than it might otherwise - because he swung the business to some buddies of his.
But that's not the only thing that should concern the public when our legislators talk about ethics and especially ethics reform. Certainly I'm particularly focused on this issue because, well, I'm in New York. And I got to see the comedy show when the new governor was all for ethics reform and investigation - until it started to sniff around some of his deals. And he unceremoniously, and prematurely, shut it down.
But to get back to Representative Martin and his missing fun - when a lobbyist takes a representative - at any level of government - out to dinner, or other vaguely trivial perks - it comes with a hook. Not necessarily the outright buying of a vote - but more insidiously, it colors the representative's view of the group being that perk. And in particularly, this is a tactic that's most easily used by people who are already on the top of the social and economic pyramid: So, say, the payday loan people can afford to pay lobbyists to do this wooing of representatives - and garnering goodwill. But a lot of the groups that are fighting what I see as unconscionable abuses by those same groups can't afford more than a bare lobbying presence in the state capitol. Sometimes all they can do is pool time, not money, to try to meet in person with a representative to present their side of the issue. And frankly, if you expect that, most of the time, most representatiaves won't give a more open ear to the group that can afford to take them out to a nice steak dinner, than the often desperate and shrill people trying to yell at him outside his office - you're living in a fantasyland.
And it seem to me that Representative Martin is happy in fantasyland - because it's good to him. And no one else matters a good goddamn.
One hopes his constituents remember this come November.