Wednesday, August 16, 2006

McMillan Moderates Session on Ethics at NCSL

Outgoing Tennessee House Majority Leader Kim McMillan today moderated a meeting on "money and politics" at the National Conference of State Legislatures today. She began the meeting by showing a WKRN news clip from the day of the Tennessee Waltz arrests in May 2005, telling the group that she had no idea that such things were going on before that day, but that the General Assembly had responded by passing effective ethics reform legislation and had conducted a successful 2006 session.

The panel that responded to questions posed by McMillan included former Ohio senate president Richard Finan, BellSouth lobbyist H.C. Poynter, and Arn Pearson of Common Cause.

While Pearson argued that virtually all campaign contributions gave the "appearance of impropriety," Finan and Poynter contended that campaign contributions merely gave donors access and did not actually change votes. Finan said that he had been a leader in Ohio ethics reform, but that he doubted that it made much difference. He contended that those who are unethical will find ways to skirt rules, and those who are ethical will not. Finan and Poynter both contended that full disclosure and enforcement were more important than limits on contributions and gifts in deterring unethical behavior. McMillan seemed to agree with that notion, pointing out at one point that bribery was already illegal prior to the Tennessee Waltz sting.

McMillan also agreed that campaign contributions did not change votes. She noted that she had repeatedly received donations from payday loan interests in Tennessee, and that both before and after those donations she had voted against bills that they wanted passed. She said that she assumed that those who gave her donations did so because they considered her to be an effective leader. She added that it has long been illegal to discuss how a legislator will vote on a bill when a donor is making a contribution.

I should add that McMillan did an outstanding job of leading the panel. I also will note that I agree with the perspective presented by her and the majority of the panel.

Update. A reporter from The Tennessean covered this meeting, but curiously failed to mention either McMillan's role in moderating it or the opening discussion of Tennessee Waltz. It is rather odd that a local newspaper would completely ignore the local aspects of a story that is being covered.

Once again, for the very best coverage of the NCSL, one must visit this blog -- not to blow my own horn or anything.


Blogger TheRep said...

If only she had not voted to keep reps that had admitted to accepting bribes (Lois De Berry) in the legislature while she was on the "ethics committee" Or vote against big chunks of ethics regulations in committee and on the house floor I may not be laughing so hard. What next Chicago Mayor Richard Daley on running a clean election ?

8:26 AM  

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