Once more to the well my indignation over the meaningless ethics amendment passed by voters a few years ago. Legislators have bent it to their will to continue unabated wining and dining on lobbyists’ credit cards, despite voters’ naive believe they’d outlawed the practice.
Good example: Wednesday night, four different lobbying firms, according to documents I obtained, entertained legislators and others at Sonny Williams’ in the River Market. (12-ounce filet, $49, salad and potato $7 extra each). None appeared on any of the lists of events that are created of approved lobbying functions. The prohibition on lobbyist dining was rewritten by the legislature to allow “scheduled events.” If a lobbyist asks a whole committee to dinner, then the wine may pour and the steaks and lobsters may be rolled out, just as before.
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When I inquired of the House of a report about all the wining and dining, Speaker Jeremy Gillam’s staff checked. Oops. There was ONE scheduled event Wednesday night that somehow got overlooked in information compiled for me earlier in the week. Bi-Partisan Strategies (lobbyists Marvin Parks and Leo Houser) had duly filled out paperwork to entertain the powerhouse Joint Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) subcommittee of the Legislative Council (ex-officio members include the House speaker and president pro tem).
That still didn’t cover any of the other lobbyists seen dining out. Nor did it explain the presence at dinner of at least legislator not on the PEER committee. He wouldn’t respond to my inquiry, but I was told second-hand by House staff that he just happened to be at Sonny’s and paid for his own meal.
Stop the presses! Lawmaker pays for his own dinner.
Folks associated with Ted and Julie Mullenix’s lobbying crew were eating at Sonny’s Wednesday, too. They’ve led virtually every incursion on the people’s effort to restrict legislative freebies. You can guess who won. Not the people. They wouldn’t respond to my queries about what was up Wednesday night.