by Max Brantley
I was miffed last night when I learned Attorney General Dustin McDaniel had sandbagged me about one piece of his so-called ethics "reform" package. He'd told me he was going to make it easier for legislators to spend campaign surpluses on themselves. That was bad. What he didn't tell me was that he intended to DOUBLE the amount they could spend on themselves, from one year's legislative pay to two. In other words, he would open the door to the conversion of $30,000 in special interest campaign contributions to the direct personal benefit of a legislator. Outrageous. Far too high a price to pay as ransom for some other parts of his package.
I mentioned my senator, David Johnson, was a sponsor. He called this morning. He said he was unaware until he read my blog post that McDaniel intended to double the payola provision. He's withdrawing his name as a sponsor.
What could happen: The ethically challenged House will adopt the payola bill but kill measures intended to stop instant lawmaker/lobbyist conversions and so-called absentee lobbying, in which lawmakers swill on the credit cards of absent lobbyists.
UPDATE: A spokesman for McDaniel insists the attorney general (who is junketing in Egypt -- what must the roaming fees be on his cell phone?) made clear all along his intention to double the limit of campaign money that could be converted to personal use. I insist I didn't hear that. David Johnson didn't either. No matter. The major offense isn't the lack of early warning. The major offense is $30,000 worth of swag for legislators that inevitably would be provided by lobbyists.
UPDATE II: McDaniel ships in a quote from Egypt. He's been putting Sen. Johnson in the hotbox.
"I spoke briefly with Sen. Johnson. He is still a key ally on this legislation, and I still believe we will have his support on the floor. I understand that he didn't want to sponsor a bill with provisions he hadn't fully considered yet. However, I know that David shares my commitment to tightening our ethics laws. I'm optimistic that we'll have his support on the floor after he's had time to more thoroughly consider the details of both bills."
My quote from LR: $30,000 in bribes is $30,000 in bribes, payable only to incumbents and only the certain type of incumbent who can reward their benefactors in the most significant fashion. It reeks.