Lavish Lobbyists, Gifted Legislators

Article excerpt

Nowhere in government is hypocrisy more blatantly on display than in the lavish spending by lobbyists on lawmakers. As detailed by Virginia Young of the Jefferson City bureau of the Post-Dispatch, people who want certain bills passed spend thousands of dollars on those legislators who can pass them. But don't dare suggest that such spending is designed to influence government; such cynical thinking is totally out of bounds.

Instead, according to lobbyist Jorgen Schlemeier, the whole process is a question of familiarity and bonding. "You've got to build a relationship," he says, explaining why he spends money on legislators, "and they've got to trust you." As far as the lawmakers' role in the deal, how could anyone think their votes are for sale? "Because I go golfing," insists Sen. David Klarich, a Ballwin Republican, "does not mean there is undue influence involved."

Mr. Klarich was exhibit No. 1 in Ms. Young's account of how 19 lobbyists followed the trail of 24 Missouri legislators to a conference in San Diego last August - and made sure their stay was pleasant. Lobbyists spent $1,030 to entertain Mr. Klarich at two championship golf courses, a fishing trip in the Pacific Ocean and gourmet meals. The relationship is bipartisan; the list of those who benefited from the most spending by lobbyists included five Republicans and three Democrats.

Legislators can't complain the state doesn't provide them money to go on such trips. …