Legislators are complaining that the 90 day session is too limiting—they don’t have enough time to interact with their constituents. Yet it appears they have time to amend a rather long ethics bill that would allow them to chat, eat and drink with lobbyists—at no expense to themselves—without having to report the meeting—as long as the expense (for immediate consumption) is under $50. Right now the limit is $15 and that doesn’t buy much in Juneau, they say. Well, I guess that depends on your style.
A few questions come to mind: why put a dollar figure on what lobbyists have to report when in a few years $50 might be the price of Big Mac? Why do lobbyists need to buy legislators anything? Don’t they get a hefty per diem to cover expenses? Isn’t a meeting in their office good enough? When constituents or citizen lobbyists fly to Juneau, they are lucky to get a meeting in legislators’ offices, let alone a night on the town with them.
Even with this reportable limit on “immediate consumption” items, have you tried to find out which legislator is being wined and dined? The APOC website has lots of information on who the lobbyists are, who pays them, how much, and the totals of their reimbursed and un-reimbursed expenses. But missing from the web are the names of the legislators they lobby and the amount they spend on them.
Those details are available, so said the lady who answered the phone in the Juneau APOC office. But the process is a bit complicated and could cost us some change for each copy beyond the first ten. E-mailing the report is free, though. To see what each lobbyist spent on our legislators, request a print out of Schedule A-1—either the reimbursed or non-reimbursed expense report, or both.
But here’s a simpler solution. Let each legislator list his/her contacts with lobbyists on his website, Facebook or Tweet. Many of them have a Facebook account; if you scan a few of them you’ll find mostly useless information and comments. If the legislator has the time to update his various electronic communication mediums, how about listing something of consequence. It would put the responsibility on the legislator to list his meetings with lobbyists and relieve APOC of some effort to research our requests.
Keep It Simple. That’s an instant, transparent and all-around better approach to keeping track of lobbyists’ and legislators’ meetings.