So-called ethics reform | Arkansas Blog

So-called ethics reform

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John Brummett noted a comment by a putative legislative ethics reformer, Rep. Anne Clemmer, that I also had meant to swat. In passing a mostly meaningless bill that will at least stop three or four legislators from their practice of piling up auto mileage reimbursement to attend conferences, Clemmer defended the legislature's refusal to close the door on the largely unregulated, unreported and extremely cost-effective lobby practice of wining and dining legislators.

Clemmer said, why, legislators would fear attending information conferences on account of running afoul of rules on entertainment expenses. This is, simply, horse hockey. The world is full of businesses that conduct training sessions and hold meetings without benefit of porterhouse steaks and martinis. If the giveaways are illegal, they won't be given and all legislators may attend without fear of favor. And if they're hungry, they can walk to the meeting and carry a lunch, unaccustomed as most of them are to picking up their own checks.

Lobbyists will be happy to trek up the Capitol during business hours to chat up and inform legislators, you may be sure Ms. Clemmer. If group meetings are most efficient, Brummett suggests a legislative conference room for that purpose. Better ethics and fewer lobbyist costs to pass on to those of us who ultimately carry the freight.

The sad truth is that there is no ethics reform because 1) lobbyists know the petty bribes work and 2) too many legislators don't want to give up the freebies. Either reason is a conclusive argument for reform.

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