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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Revolving Door: Legislator to Lobbyist

Category: Citizens United
Posted: 02/24/13 18:05

by Dave Mindeman

I still can't figure out how Minnesota elected officials have this puzzling misinterpretation of conflict of interest.

Red Wing Mayor Dennis Egan probably still thinks that being mayor and a silica sand lobbyist is not a problem....even though the controversy finally made him rethink and resign.

After Steve Sviggum's rationale about the U of M Trustee and Senate Caucus spokesman being an OK thing....or former Rep. Steve Gottwalt and his health care lobbyist position....now Mayor Egan....you would think the logic would be obvious.

Does it have to be spelled out? Do we need specific legislation that says being an elected official and a lobbyist or political spokesperson at the same time is a full blown conflict of interest? Maybe we do. Maybe the logic of it all escapes those in power.

I have always been uncomfortable with the relationships of elected officials and lobbyists. They have to have relationships, but the revolving door of legislator to lobbyist is too easy and convenient. There is a silent quid pro quo that seems evident in such cases. When the lobbyists dangle future lucrative jobs in front of poorly paid legislators, the tempatation is much too great.

It would seem that elected officials need to sign a contract with the electorate. If they represent the people then representing corporations or special interests are not in the cards. A lobbyist cannot become a legislator and a legislator cannot become a lobbyist. Ever!

I realize that such an idea will never come to fruition....but we must at least establish a moratorium that has a significant time lag. My guess is, that to be effective, it should be at least 10 years.

It may be naive to think this way....but in an ideal world it would certainly make for better decision making.
comments (2) permalink

The Future of MN Campaign Finance -- Well, If There Is One

Category: Citizens United
Posted: 06/26/12 00:36, Edited: 06/26/12 00:39

by Dave Mindeman

What is the future of Minnesota's campaign finance system going to look like? I ask that because what we have now, has little chance of surviving.

With all the hoopla and discussion about the Arizona immigration law, the campaign finance ruling against Montana's finance law got lost in the shuffle. I guess everybody just chalked it up to more Citizens United shuffling.... but the trend continues to get darker in my opinion.

In simplest terms, the Supreme Court said, in the Montana decision, that prevention of corruption was not a good enough reason to place limits on corporate contributions.

Corruption isn't a compelling enough reason?

As the Strib reports , Minnesota's campaign finance legalities are on life support as well. The only weapon (well, popgun really) we have left is disclosure. And that will probably be the next to go.

But the state (Minnesota) also requires donors to funnel those contributions through political action committees that must file disclosure reports, a condition that quickly drew a legal challenge.

Is it really free speech if the megaphone that is blasting in our ears is done with an anonymous voice? Is it really free speech when thousands and millions of dollars spew forth from an unconnected ATM that drowns out all other conversation? Who are we arguing with? Who is the debate opponent?

Is this really speech? Or are we being subjected to a form of subliminal messaging, where the few can seek control of the masses.

A few days ago, in an almost contradictory decision, the Supreme Court held that labor unions had to get permission from the members before it could do any special political activity.

So, what the Supreme Court seems to be saying is that unions are restricted when using membership dues....but corporations do not have to ask the same permission of its shareholders.

Corruption....non-disclosure....unlimited corporate speech.

We might as well concede to President 'Halliburton'.

comments (1) permalink

Government For Sale

Category: Citizens United
Posted: 06/25/12 14:20, Edited: 06/26/12 07:45

by Dave Mindeman

As the Supreme Court affirms its ruling on Citzens United, by striking down the Montana finance law banning corporate giving, it is worth discussing the recent Strib article about the pull back of a GOP donor because of Legislative inaction on a favorite topic.

Bob Cummins, who has donated more than $3.5 million to Minnesota Republican causes, is telling allies he has had it with Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature and will not give their campaigns any cash this year, according to multiple sources.

Cummins, CEO of Plymouth-based Primera Technology, is reportedly frustrated over legislators' failure to approve a "right-to-work" constitutional amendment that would limit union power.

Cummins can give or not give at his own discretion of course, especially now that he has numerous tracks where he can funnel his money....anoymously or not.

But, to me, the "why" he is not giving is equally troubling....

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said he has not talked personally with Cummins recently but would not be surprised if he withheld contributions. "He was pretty tied in to the right-to-work issue, and I think that was his main legislative priority. I don't think I would expect a lot of help out of him given that we didn't advance that," Senjem said.

What seems to follow is that we now have the opportunity for rich donors to "buy" legislation.

The concept is not really new, but there used to be at least an attempt to hide any quid pro quo. Tax breaks for wealthy corporations have gone on for some time. Agriculture subsidies, oil subsidies, and tax loopholes for offshore havens....all of this has spurred donations to the political party that supports such things.

But now, one person can buy their own legislation. What is to stop Cummins from promoting legislation that changes a little piece of the tax code and exempts him from all taxes? Really, what is there to stop it? In return, he could shuffle his money anonymously into some kind of supportive super pac to help during the election cycle. Then legislators could disguise a loophole which would apply only to his circumstance, bury it in another piece of legislation and voila!... The Cummins state tax exemption.

Government for sale.
comments (2) permalink
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