Some people call it influence peddling, but in many instances it
is an exercise in free speech, and exemplifies the right to be heard
in the legislative halls.
In recent days concern has been expressed about an increase in
the influence of lobbyists in the next Legislature because there
will be so many new faces next year.
Term limits account for 42 new members. Nine will come because
incumbents chose not to run for re-election. That is more than one-
third of the Legislature.
Veteran legislators fear this will leave the Legislature with
inexperienced members who will be more susceptible to being
influenced by lobbyists. A valid argument can be made that this is
not only exaggerated, but that the result will be the opposite.
Among experienced lobbyists there probably is more concern that
their influence initially will be diluted and will take time to re-
establish. They are losing more than one-third of the members with
whom they have well-established contacts and relations. These are
legislators with whom they have worked, who know them and whether
they can be trusted.
Instead they will be faced with the same number of new members
whose faces and names will be unfamiliar to them, and with whom new
relations will have to be developed. That is not done overnight, or
even in one or two sessions.
Of all the things good lobbyists need, the two most important
probably are knowledge of the members and information that comes
from them. After lobbying for 30 years, I have not been active in
that realm for nearly 12 years, and while the rules may have
changed, many of the basic principles have not.
To a degree a dark side of lobbying exists, but I suspect only a
very few lobbyists cut corners, skirt the intent if not the literal
terms of the rules or go beyond the bounds of ethical and even legal
standards imposed upon them. There are already penalties for doing
Much talk is made about lobbyist wining and dining and golfing
with legislators. Certainly in the past it has been carried to
extremes on occasion. New and stronger rules by the state Ethics
Commission, while not perfect have worked to eliminate or at least
minimize such abuses.
Does normal entertainment influence a legislator's vote? A long
time ago a good lobbyist friend of mine put this in perspective.
Any vote I can buy for a steak dinner someone else can buy back
for a bigger steak.
Few if any votes are swayed by this practice. It may have been
true for other lobbyists, but I cannot recall any instance where I
secured a legislator's vote while eating dinner with him or her.
What I may have gotten is his or her perspective on legislation of
interest to me.
Yes, many legislators like to be entertained, but most are more
interested in what the people in their districts want. They are
swayed more by the facts and information lobbyists have on a
particular subject or issue.
Secondly, when a good lobbyist takes three or four legislators to
dinner, chances are he/she will do far more listening than talking.
Legislators are as human as the rest of us. They like to be in
the know. Because of their position, they have this opportunity.
They also like to let people know this.
In short, they talk, usually about legislation or legislative