The good guy lobbyists

The bill in question, AB 1430, passed the Assembly unanimously with only Senator Migden voting against it in the Senate. An Assemblyman who apparently plans to challenge Senator Migden in the Democratic primary next spring claims that his vote was a mistake, he really is in favor of limiting free speech rights (well, OK, he didn’t exactly say that, but in effect it’s what he meant).

So why did this Assemblyman make this particular mistake? According to the writer of the opinion piece (who is the Chronicle’s editorial page editor),

"He noted — correctly — that neither Common Cause, local ethics commissions nor any of the other watchdog groups that track campaign finance had flagged AB1430 when it breezed through the Assembly Elections Committee on which he serves."

In other words, the lobbyists he relies on to keep him informed on important issues didn’t tell him what the "right" vote was on this issue.

An interesting statement, given that the goal of these campaign finance "reforms" is, at least as I have been told, to limit the ability of "special interests" and "powerful lobbyists" to influence the actions and votes of elected officials! I guess it’s only if you don’t like the perspective of a particular "special interest" that it’s unacceptable for them to educate and inform legislators on important issues.

Not to be outdone, Senator Migden has her own statement on why she thinks there was no opposition (other than herself) to this bill, equally enlightening. Legislators who normally could be counted on to vote in favor of suppressing speech apparently didn’t fully comprehend the implications of this bill because, in her words, ""The good-guy lobbyists were totally asleep."

In other words, she concurs with her Assemblyman colleague (and primary rival) that lobbyists serve a vital and important function for legislators, normally lending their expertise and understanding to legislators who have literally scores of issues and topics which they must stay informed of.

As someone who has worked in a state legislature I agree fully with both elected officials that lobbyists, who ultimately represent the interests of citizens and constituents, are a critical source of information for elected officials. Trying to limit "access" or "influence" of lobbyists and citizen groups can only limit the amount of information, expertise, and differing perspectives that elected officials need in order to make decisions.

In this particular case, it would appear the "good guy lobbyists" failed to alert elected officials of an opportunity to continue suppressing political speech. But the statements of these two elected officials certainly do demonstrate the critical role of lobbyists, not to mention the folly of trying to limit the ability of lobbyists to represent citizens and constituents.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.