One of the poorest kept political secrets is the plan that Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker is heading to the lobby when he’s term limited at the end of this year. He’s repeatedly dodged my inquiries on the subject.
Oh, he may not call his future political consulting lobbying. But he’s expected to continue service to the Chamber of Commerce-style interests for whom he’s labored so long — “tort reform” (making it harder for injured people to sue the people who injure them); judicial reform (making sure the right sort of people get elected to judgeships to enforce “tort reform”); anti-unionism, and so on.
The Democrat-Gazette’s Michael Wickline added immeasurably to the narrative today (pay wall) with the solid report that Republican Senate candidate Mike Akin, who’s also on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, and another UA trustee, trial lawyer John Goodson, had talked to Baker about working as a UA system lobbyist. Forget for a moment that there’s a phalanx of university employees who function as lobbyists. This is slimy stuff. People with interests before the legislature talking to a sitting legislator about future paid gigs? Everybody involved has been compromised. Has anybody thought to ask Mike Akin, by the way, if he intends to stay on the UA Board if elected. Why shouldn’t he? It’s all kind of fungible in Akin’s world. See his past self-dealing as university trustee and AEDC commissioner for an understanding of Akin’s ethical grounding.
Legislative Republicans — who opposed the Regnant Populus 2012 initiative — have been spraining their shoulders lately patting themselves on the back for passing “ethics reform” in 2011. The Baker episode illustrates graphically how bankrupt the deal was. It passed only with a grandfather clause for current legislators. Though future legislators will have a one-year waiting period for hitting the lobby (though not for “consulting”), the current bunch does not. Thus Baker’s work toward a well-remunerated future. (The legislation, by the way, did little else but tinker with expense reimbursement rules.)
It pays to be identified as a crossover Republican as Baker was known. You get Democratic appointees like Goodson on your side. Goodson is an adept political player of course. He’s been associated in legal practice with in-chamber Republican political help, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. You get Democratic Sen. Paul Bookout singing Baker’s praises as a future employee (Thanks for your cooperation, Gil-bo). UCA, which ought to be working harder to keep its skirts clean, also has had some chats with Baker through President Tom Courtway. Talking with Baker about going back to work on the UCA music faculty is one thing. Talking with a sittting legislator about future political employment is wholly another.
Legislators clearly can’t be trusted to regulate themselves. Thus Regnat Populus 2012.