Lately I might sound like some kind of Post-Gazette advertising guy, with the way I’ve been touting some of the work in that newspaper. My regular readers will know that hyping the P-G is not the focus of this web log. But in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I’ve been a freelancer for the P-G for five years, and I’ve written more than 800 stories for them.
I’ve also written hundreds of stories for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Butler Eagle. But when the P-G editorial board gets its Irish up the way it recently has over lobbyist disclosure in Pennsylvania, I can’t help but feel a bit giddy about it.
Let’s face it, the market penetration of the Trib in this area is nothing compared to that of the Post-Gazette, and most people in this area who read a paper read the P-G. Post-Gazette readers also tend to have views that generally are in line with those that the P-G espouses. So when they write an editorial, people often notice.
The Post-Gazette couldn’t have come out in stronger terms about lobbyist disclosure than they did in this editorial today. The editorial blasted Speaker John Perzel for impeding legislation that would bring lobbyist disclosure to Pennsylvania. It also stated that money and politics have made for bad news on the national level:
“Anyone paying attention to the investigations and indictments unfolding in Washington knows there is no greater poison in government than the free-flowing cash and gifts of lobbyists. It has reached toxic levels in some congressional offices and is a constant threat in state capitals, too. However, any normal state has laws that -- far from banning lobbyists -- simply require that they report on their spending to influence government officials.”
Some of the strongest language in the editorial referred to the reality of the situation in this state, where legislators are regularly being influenced by people spending money on them:
“In John Perzel's state there is no need to keep track of who is wining, dining and golfing with legislators for votes because our House and Senate members, unlike others in the country, vote strictly on what their conscience or constituents tell them.”
Reading such an editorial is very gratifying for me, since on Nov. 29 I was moaning and groaning about this lobbyist issue, which I’ve been writing and reporting on for this web log. In that late-November rant, I wrote:
“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…
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 we Pennsylvanians aren’t such fools, after all.