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An Idea for Preet

May 6, 2015

We’ve never been ones to say that all lobbyists are bad or that their business is corrupt inherently.  In fact, depending on who you’re lobby for and how, it can be an honorable trade.

Think about it: You could lobby for a tobacco company or you could lobby for same sex marriage or public schools or the Catholic Church or the Cancer Society. Hell, you could even lobby for good government groups on behalf of measures that restrict lobbying.

The point is that lobbying itself isn’t bad, or at least is doesn’t have to be.

That said, we had an encounter recently with one of the capital’s most prominent lobbyists. This individual is very successful. On the strength of his legal acumen, his institutional knowledge and, yes, his ability to connect directly on short notice with every powerful person in Albany, this person is paid a lot of money.

And good for him. We’re not about to say he isn’t worth it or doesn’t earn it by working hard. And yet, something this person said to us really gave us pause – not about him, but about the way things are in Albany. He said: “Every time I go to the Capitol, somebody commits a felony.”

This wasn’t a cosmic reflection on the recent spate of lawmakers who have gotten into trouble with the law. This wasn’t: “Another day, another indictment – sheesh!”

Instead, he was saying that every time he himself goes to the Capitol, a lawmaker or senior staffer for a lawmaker will approach him to discuss fundraising.

He said that 30 years ago, this would have never happened.  Nobody made a fund raising appeal in a government building. Nobody asked for a contribution while they were working on their government jobs. Nobody mixed politics and government like that.

According to this lobbyist, it happens all the time now and it’s a felony.

We asked our lobbyist friend: “How do you handle it? What do you say when it happens?”

“With staff, I say: ‘I’m not discussing that here.’ With members, well, I just nod and try not to say anything. I don’t want to offend them, but I also don’t want to have the conversation – not under those circumstances.”

We believe everything this person was telling us. We believe that the separation that once existed no longer does. And we know how it happened – it just kind of eroded over time. In fact, it once was the case that lawmakers did not hold fundraisers in the City of Albany. That’s right. It was a no-no years ago. But now there are fundraisers every night when the legislature is in session. Check out the Fort Orange Club.

It occurs to us that it would be a small step in the right direction if we could bring back some of the restraint that once existed. But how? If there was a functioning JCOPE … oh, never mind. Maybe DA Soares could do something…nah.

It comes back to PB. What if he wired a lobbyist and just had him walk through the Capitol on a session day? That would do it, wouldn’t it?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. anon permalink
    May 6, 2015 6:38 PM

    There have been legislative fundraisers in Albany, on session and committee days, at least since 1986, and at that time it was common practice. The Sign of the Tree usually put out a good spread and the interns had a food field day (free drinks, too!). So I don’t know how far you want to go back and say “it once was the case that lawmakers did not hold fundraisers in the City of Albany” since 30 years is a long time.

    I’ll refrain from commenting on the mix of alcohol, interns and legislators, which is another story.

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