Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Letter to the West Plains Daily Quill

by Pa Rock
Local Voter

A week ago yesterday an article appeared on the front page of our local newspaper, The West Plains Daily Quill, which revealed that our local state representative, Mr. Shawn Rhoads, had placed eighth in the entire state legislature, House and Senate, on total gifts received from lobbyists.  I commented on that situation in this space last Saturday.  Over the weekend I decided to expand on my thoughts and concerns with a letter to the editor of the newspaper.  I submitted it on Monday and was told that they only published letters on Saturday.  So this afternoon my effort appeared in print in the local newspaper.

I directed my comments toward the practice of lobbyists giving gifts to legislators rather than at my state representative himself.   Sadly, he just seems to be doing what everyone else is doing, though on a grander scale than most.  The practice of gift-giving by companies and organizations who have business to present before the legislature, however, is unethical and wrong - whether it is illegal or not.  If our legislators were doing their jobs properly, the practice would be illegal because they would have already addressed it with some hard-nosed legislation.

But I said that better in the letter.  It follows below for your edification and amusement.

"To the Editor,

This letter is in response to the story on the front page of your newspaper last Friday that highlighted what seems to be the all-to-common practice of our state legislators accepting gifts from lobbyists.

A justification was put forth for these  “lobbyist interactions” by noting they have been occurring for “centuries. “  That sounds like a version of our children’s favorite excuse:   “Everybody else is doing it.”  Sadly, that may be correct, but the fact that receiving gifts from lobbyists has been occurring for “centuries” makes it neither right nor ethical.

Legislators have also been quick to note that the practice is not illegal.  I would posit that just because something is not illegal does not make it right.  We elect legislators to serve the public interest.   Instead of accepting gifts from private companies and organizations who have business before the legislature, our representatives in Jefferson City would better serve the public if they spent some time drafting legislation that would outlaw gift-giving by lobbyists

You see, the reason that gifting free sports tickets and meals to legislators isn’t illegal is because our legislators have failed to pass sensible laws that would make the practice illegal.  It’s a door they could close – if they wanted to.

There is also another problem with the practice of lobbyists buying meals for lawmakers.  Public business should be discussed in the open where the public can observe and respond.    Missouri has a fine Capitol building for that very purpose.  Bills are proposed, debated, and voted on in the Capitol.  When a lobbyist and a legislator get together over a nice meal in a private restaurant, chances are extremely good that some state business will be discussed – and the public is being denied its right to observe that part of the legislative process.

A lobbyist giving a gift to a legislator creates a perception of impropriety – a thought that the lobbyist expects to gain something for his generosity.  That is also a concern when legislators turn around and re-gift those things to constituents.   A cynical person might wonder if a legislator is seeking something in return for sharing his unearned wealth.

Being retired and on a fixed income, I do not have the resources to give gifts or meals to my state legislator, and that places me at an unfair disadvantage when bills are being promoted by lobbyists which are not in my best interest.  Government should represent all of us, not just those who can afford to lavish gifts on our lawmakers.


Rocky G. Macy
West Plains, MO  65775"

1 comment:

Don said...

Well said, Rock