Governor Bob Riley is going after those whose job it is to sway your legislator's vote. As a part of his package of accountability bills, the Governor wants to require lobbyists to report 'anything' they buy a state Senator or Representative - even if it's just a cup of coffee or a newspaper.
There were 600 registered lobbyists with the Ethics Commission last year. They represented special interest groups like those who are for issues like abortion, gambling, increased taxes to those who are against them. Their job is to try and get the 140 state legislators to vote their way on the issues. Sometimes that means taking a Senator out for dinner or buying a Representative a birthday present. Right now, if it costs less than $250.00 a day the lobbyists don't have to report it, but the Governor is trying to change that.
They hang out in the hallway leading to the House of Representatives. It's deserted and quiet now but come next Tuesday it will be filled with lobbyists trying to catch the state Representatives as they walk to and from the House chamber. And, the Governor says, if a lobbyist buys a legislator even a $.50 can of soda while standing there he must report it on his ethics form. The Governor says it's all about restoring the public trust. "When every lobbyists records every dime that they are going to be spending on any member of the legislature or the executive branch then I think that's a great first step in rebuilding that trust."
That's the other change the Governor wants. He proposing that lobbyists start registering and reporting money spent when lobbying the Governor's office and his cabinet members too. As for those who will be affected by these changes, they don't seem to mind. Howevermost, like A.E.A's Paul Hubbert say it's not the $.50 or $25.00 items that influence votes. "We spend very little on the legislature when they are in session.it's an occasional meal here and there that I might have for a meeting with a group. We find most of our expenses is at election time with trying to help some folks get their message out to the voters. We spend probably in the course of a month less than a thousand dollars on lobbying."
The governor is also proposing laws to ban "PAC to PAC" transfers. That's when John Doe, for example, contributes $100.00 to a political action committee, and that PAC transfers it to yet another committee. When this is done, it makes it difficult to see who is giving to whom.