Thursday, November 03, 2005

Lobbyists from the State House

Our phone rings and we answer it. Yesterday we got a call from the Center for Public Integrity, a DC-based think tank, asking about lobbyists in Illinois. They did a report a while ago rating state lobbyist regulations, and I’d guess they’re getting ready to update it. Their call was to ask about former legislators who are now lobbyists. How many could we think of? A lot, it turns out. We surprised ourselves by thinking of about two dozen right off the bat, and we’re probably missing a few. Not to mention former staffers who have stopped wearing shoes with laces.

Everybody has right to earn a living, but the public has a right to be concerned about conflicts of interest, especially among people who hold offices of public trust but have begun to think about their next career. Elections are supposed to focus officials’ minds on what their constituents need, and once they’re no longer looking to the next election, because they lost a general or, worse, a primary, or just decided to retire, their minds can wander from the public good. Too, there’s reason for concern with staffers who leave on Friday and return as lobbyists on Monday: what strategies are they carrying with them, and what did they do before they left?