Current Ethics Efforts Put Effort Into the Wrong End of the Problem
After the legislature decided to do as close to nothing as possible about perceived ethics problems earlier this year, some citizens were left a bit steamed. There do appear to be a lot of conflicts of interest in the legislature (like a full-time lobbyist as a legislator) and while there have been some rather blatant conflicts of interest (I’m looking at you, Aaron Tilton), tightening up gifting, spending, and lobbying rules is an ineffective way to take care of the problem.
The real problem is that when each legislator is given enough power to push through legislation on their own, they become a magnet for lobbying. No matter how many rules you make, no matter how many laws you pass, no matter how harsh the punishment, the problem of a single legislator wielding considering individual influence and power will still exist. This is only compounded when the number of constituents represented by each of them increases, resulting in a need for even more funding to effectively campaign for office.
I think the appropriate remedy for this situation is to keep adding members of the House of Representatives, both at the state and federal levels. Not only do you dilute the power of the individual lawmakers, you greatly increase their responsiveness to constituents and spread the lobbying dollars much more thinly. It may also put an end to oddly-drawn district boundaries since they can be made smaller and thus more compact. The door is also opened to third-party and independent candidates who can invest plenty of time and not a lot of money.
Additional rules only create additional loopholes. Let’s go for a solution that really takes care of the problem.