Thursday, January 04, 2007

It's the Legislators, Not the Lobbyists

In discussing the proposal of House Democrats regarding ethics reform, this Wall Street Journal editorial gets it exactly right:

As for the bad, most of the rest of these "reforms" are about controlling the lobbyists, not the Members, which gets it exactly backward. Putting restrictions on the right of citizens to petition government is a strange way of handling ethically challenged politicians. If a Member can be bought with a free lunch or skybox ticket from a lobbyist, he shouldn't be in Congress anyway. And even as they're forgoing lunch, the Members will still be telling corporate lobbyists they'd better ante up that PAC money, or else.

The word "lobbyist" has become a red herring, but, in fact, there is nothing wrong with a lobbyist representing someone, or many people, who is trying to get his way on an issue that impacts him. It is not surprising that people will try to achieve what is in their interest. The real villains in the story, to the extent there are any, are legislators who make poor choices in what they legislate. The problem is not that citizens petition their government; the problem is that those who have been elected to make legislative choices sometimes choose wrongly and for the wrong reasons.

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