by Max Brantley
Good story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today that reports that cumulative spending by lobbyists appeared to be down this year during the Arkansas legislative session, at least judging by official reporting forms.
I don't believe it and the story provides plenty of anecdotal evidence to support my cynical view. Spot-checking some people who should have turned up with expenses for some marquee social events, the Democrat-Gazette's Michael Wickline found that several major lobby groups, gee, just forgot to report contributions to some big throwdowns like dinners for the House speaker and Senate president.
I believe that a ton of legislative hog-slopping goes unreported. The Walmart cup of coffee rule is the only solution for this corruption. Neither the lobby nor legislators can be trusted to be honest or not to seek the abundant loopholes. Consider, too, some of the reported feeds. The Arkansas Realtors spent more than $21,000 on a legislative reception at the Capital Hotel. Even if all 135 legislators attended, the per-head cost is $150 or so each. Such pricey wining and dining is legal, but should it be? Tangible gifts worth more than $100 are illegal. You can see that you can get away with murder on group events, where individual expenditures on legislators need not be reported.
And speaking of gifts: Wonder if those $50 leather "padfolios" given to every legislator by the Farm Bureau will be reported on legislators' annual financial disclosure statements? And I wonder what other gratuities find their way to legislators that we don't know about.