Editorial: The truth about the cost of lobbying

Local and national reports in this newspaper the other day attempted to tally up the costs and benefits of lobbying.

More specifically, lobbying of the state and federal governments by local government agencies such as counties, cities and school boards.

One astute tax watchdog called it spending public money to get more public money or get them assistance that local agencies deserve anyway.

It stung us to see what we already know put so bluntly.

The stories chronicled the growth of nothing less than an entire industry — so pervasive that no one is really sure how many lobbyists there are in Tallahassee and Washington.

Statisticians were sure, however, that the scope of the enterprise far exceeds the $93 million that citizens pay each year to keep just Congress running.

As one tax watchdog put it, "This really flies in the face of good government."

And how.

We could go a step or two further. We would say the big picture shows how dysfunctional government has become. It shows how government has lost sight of its most fundamental missions and has grown so big that the people have to pay double to monitor its activities and get return on their investment.

Still, that is the reality of the hand we are dealt. Lobbying is part of the woodwork.

The reasons given by lobbyists in their own defense appear to be true. Though the rationale seems to illustrate the mess government is in, lobbyists are needed to catch and keep legislators’ focus, especially if they are unfamiliar with localized needs.

To use another analogy that may grate, they are like lawyers. Sometimes you need them to represent your interests. And if you do not do so, a competitor surely will.

That seems to be why local governments say they have no intention of changing their ways; they will keep employing lobbyists to one degree or another at public expense.

The system is so ingrained, so much a part of the culture, that there is no turning back.

Thank goodness for public disclosure laws. The citizenry has a fighting chance to track who has access and where the money goes on a daily basis — not just on the occasion when the news media takes a good, hard and even bothersome look.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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