Magazine article State Legislatures

Yes, No, Maybe So: What's Wrong with Becoming a Lobbyist after Leaving the Legislature?

Magazine article State Legislatures

Yes, No, Maybe So: What's Wrong with Becoming a Lobbyist after Leaving the Legislature?

Article excerpt

In the world of state government, when a legislator or other senior government official leaves his or her public-servant post and returns immediately to the statehouse as a lobbyist, he or she has effectively gone through a "revolving door." Clever name, yes; but also an ethical minefield.

There is nothing inherently wrong with former legislators and government officials using their experience, institutional knowledge and overall political know-how to influence the policymaking process. In fact, petitioning the government and advocating for both public and private interests underpin a healthy democracy.

Problems arise, however, when public-interest and watchdog groups publish articles accusing former legislators of receiving special treatment, exclusive access, quid pro quo--you name it, it's been alleged and reported on.

In reality, the number of bad actors is very small, and most legislators-turned-lobbyists advocate in wholly legal and ethical ways. But the actions of few can be imputed to many.

Short of illegal and unethical practices, allowing the revolving door still gives rise to the appearance of impropriety and undue influence. As such, legislators, legislative staff and lobbyists must be cautious in all aspects of their duties and professions.

Transparency is key to dispelling the myth that the revolving door is a conduit through which illegal and unethical activities flow. Being open about the practice will help shed some light on the often misunderstood, and almost always negatively portrayed, lobbying process. …

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