Kurt Erickson has a piece in the Post-Dispatch about Missouri lawmakers who rent rooms in Jefferson City houses that are owned by lobbyists:
It’s all perfectly legal for lawmakers to have business dealings with lobbyists under Missouri’s wide-open ethics laws, where candidates can take unlimited amounts of campaign money and be wined and dined by the companies and groups seeking to influence policy under the statehouse dome.
It’s “legal” because the people who made the law are the ones benefitting from it. But it’s certainly not ethical. Erickson continues:
For some, the business relationship is not about a soft pillow and a quiet room to sleep. Records indicate Tyler McClay, a lobbyist, needed a pest control company for his office and called Art’s Pest Control. The business is owned by state Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City. Similarly, state Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, is an investment adviser with Edward Jones. Lobbyist William Jarad Falk uses his services and, therefore, must report the existence of a business relationship. “Rep. Engler handles my retirement investments,” reads a note on Falk’s January report to the ethics commission.
The fact that no one involved sees any conflict of interest in these deals tells you all you need to know about political corruption. They will, with a straight face, assert that the fact that one relies on the other for financial gain has no impact whatsoever on whether the lobbyist gets extra access to the legislator to ensure that the law is crafted for their benefit. Moreover, these politicians probably believe that by having lobbyists file monthly reports, they’re keeping everything above board and in the light. After all, if the information is available somewhere in the legislature’s paperwork, they can’t be hiding anything, right?
The truth is, the public doesn’t know or care about the reports. We only want to know that our elected officials are representing our interests, not those of the landlords whose homes they’re living in. But as usual in our corrupt political system, that’s a fantasy.