It seems the heat is getting hotter on Governor Bredesen and he is not sure what to do. The people are screaming for reform, but the reform needed will directly hurt the Governor and his party. What am I talking about?
Well, lobbyists for starters. Many are good, low paid or voluteer lobbyists who work for a cause. But some receive 6 to 7 figures to influence laws and they do it well. The closer or tighter they are to the legislators or power the more they influence and the more money they can make.
Let's examine the Governor's cabinet-his “bastion of power and influence.” Governor Bredesen's head honcho in charge of handing out taxpayer funds and perks to companies is Matt Kisber, top brass over Economic Development. Mr. Kisber's wife is a well-paid lobbyist.
Dave Goetz, a former well-paid and very connected lobbyist, is now Finance Commissioner.
Jenna Lodge heads up General Services for the Governor. Her husband is lobbyist Dick Lodge.
Anna Windrow stepped down from serving on the Governor's staff for years and in just a few weeks managed to land some of the most plum lobbying contracts in the state.
Ford acted foolishly-and he was lazy. He took the money himself. If he had only told the E-Cycle people “I can only accept $1,000 from you or $5,000 from your PAC, but you can hire my son/spouse/daughter and pay them $100,000 to lobby me,” the FBI would still be empty handed.
Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and his lobbyist wife Betty Anderson seem to do quite well with their arrangement. We will never know how many figures they earn because they don't have to report it.(most suspect mid to high 6 figures)
Representative Joe Armstrong runs the committee that works on health care and TennCare. Think anyone might like to hire his wife? Yes, she too is a lobbyist and one of the best paid as well.
What if you are not related to a legislator but still want big influence? Well, for those folks they can serve on a state board or commission that determines and reports what is best for the state. Yes, lobbyists all across the state serve on many boards that effect what they lobby . Common sense would tell you there is no way for a lobbyist to serve on a board in an unbiased way, but yet it's done all the time.
The Governor and the Speaker-who have their own political agendas-appoint these lobbyists. John Wilder just tried (unsuccessfully) to change the law so he could keep a “good friend” on a board. This is the third time the law would have been changed to allow for his “friend” (and big donor/lobbyist Tom Hensley) to be able stay on a TWRA board.
What about political races? What if you are running a race against an entrenched legislator well connected with lobbyists? Would your worst nightmare be the same lobbyists in charge of the vote-counting? Well, it happens. Many lobbyists serve on state or local election commissions .Good luck!
I have tried to obtain a list of all the lobbyists and the boards and commissions they serve on, but I was told the list would be over 5 pages long and a lot of work. If anyone would like to help with this project, please contact me.
If these types of conflicts existed in the legal profession, these folks would be disbarred for conflict of interest.
Unless something big happens, it is doubtful that things will change in the legislature. As long as the money flows, the people in power will turn a blind eye and even continue to appoint lobbyists to powerful boards and commissions. I have been told, the Governor was told up front and early by the lobbyists what they will and won't accept in the way of ethics reform.
I hate to repeat myself, but the Republicans had a bill that would stop this (one sponsored by me, another by Beth Harwell) but guess what? Yes, it was killed in State and Local subcommittee. Surprise, surprise, surprise.