Pennsylvanians, where is your outrage? Have the flames of your anger been doused by the pay raise repeal?
If I told you that your pants were on fire and you saw the flames, you’d run for water. But I tell you how Pennsylvania state legislators are regularly influenced by corporate interests, and almost nobody comments. None of my three readers commented, and with the exception of blogger Mark Rauterkus, none of the local media picked up on it. Almost none of the local blogging community mentioned this problem, perhaps because local bloggers prefer to complain about the money spent on stadiums and they prefer to tout local websites, but they don’t want “hard” news. Or maybe they like having their legislators answer to special interests.
It’s a familiar Catch-22: If the “news” doesn’t report on it, it’s not news.
Regardless of whether you pay attention or not, Pennsylvania’s soul is on fire. Politicians are burning the taxpayers, and they think people don’t care who’s buying them dinner, giving them plane tickets, or picking up the tab for their vacations. From what I can tell, state politicos are right to not worry, because people don’t care if their legislators are crooked.
Maybe Pennsylvanians are slower than the average American, or maybe we suffer inordinately from the American ill of being dumb, fat and happy. Even if these suppositions were true, I’d still find it maddening that nobody but a handful of activists across the state are angry about the more than $200 million being spent yearly to influence our state legislators.
Two hundred million dollars, and that’s not all that is spent on lobbying efforts in this state. I can’t tell you exactly how much more is spent by lobbyists in this state, because our state is so slack in its governance of lobbyists that all lobbyists dealing with state legislators aren’t even required to register with the state. If you don’t think the lack of regulation of lobbyists in Pennsylvania is a problem, consider that every other state in the nation has a law requiring registration and disclosure by lobbyists. Either they are all fools, or we are.
Maybe you don’t care who is lobbying your legislators. Maybe you don’t have time to care that lobbying is an accepted practice, or that in this state lobbying is as open as the wild west, with lobbyists acting as hired guns for special interests.
We citizens are outgunned and out-manned and the state is consumed with greed. But what’s really important are some penny ante pay raises by legislators, or some stadiums that were paid for with taxpayers’ dollars.
I disagree, because I don’t think that anyone should have unequal access to legislators, as lobbyists do. The system is corrupt and unworkable, unless you are one of the rich or connected who can have your voice heard in order to win contracts, have legislation passed, or win favor with state officials. In that case, it works for you.
People don’t seem to mind that their legislators are being led around by the nose, doing the bidding of special interests. But I don’t think that any of us likes to be considered a chump.
While I was researching the story “Lobbyists open doors,” I spoke with a few people who were openly disdainful of my view that lobbyists should be more closely watched. One legislator’s employee who I spoke with didn’t try to hide her disdain, responding with a nearly mocking attitude to my questions. During part of the phone interview, she had the unnerving habit of snickering at me as I questioned her.
It probably doesn’t matter to you, Pennsylvania reader, that many of your representatives don’t think your state needs a law to keep an eye on who is trying to influence them. Is it really possible to regulate lobbyists, you wonder. Then you forget about the issue. After all, it probably doesn’t matter much if you’re not paying attention to it.But you don’t have to accept that Pennsylvania politics have turned into a controlled burn of your tax dollars. Tell your legislators that you want them to pass state Senate Bill 1, also known as the Lobbying Accountability Act. Tell them they’d better pass the law if they want to keep their jobs. Then hold them to it.