Monday, March 27, 2006


Pacific Business News exposes corporate "interns" in legislative offices

Pacific Business News reporter Kristen Consillio has state legislators blinking as she shines headlights on the dark doings in their offices in an exposé in Friday's PBN.

In this front-page feature article complete with photos of some of the miscreants, Consillio describes the extent that corporations have managed to plant high-level people in the offices of willing state legislators, including (and most troubling) powerful committee chairs.

Committee chairs have the ability to kill legislation at their whim, or to switch it around behind the scenes in such a way that their own view of the issue takes precedence over public testimony. It's particularly dismaying, then, to find that the people closest to them ("interns," as we know, can get real close) are executives of companies or organizations whose issues come before the chair's committee.

It's no wonder that HMSA Executive Administrator Mark Forman evaded calls from reporter Consillio (see the article). His presence was exposed and it would be hard, I think, for him to explain why he is spending so much of the HMSA Foundation's time and money as a "lowly" intern in Rep. Herke's office. If cornered, would he say he's merely helping with the copying and stapling, or would he say that he never works on issues related to health insurance? Of course not. Wouldn't he be wasting HMSA's money if he were not working to advance their interests in some way?

Consillio exposed the shady contradiction of the House leadership around these corporate lobbyists who work with legislators. According to her interview with House Speaker Calvin Say,
"Most lawmakers would not allow any interns or volunteers to dictate public policy."
Most? That means that some are allowing these interns to dictate public policy.

The Smoking gun

Rep. Kirk Caldwell's intern, attorney Ryan Sanada, was more forthright as he shot himself in the foot describing his "internship":
"Part of it is to provide the perspective of management and employers with regards to the labor bills."
Caldwell (taking aim at his own foot) agrees that Sanada's input contributes to his view of public policy:
Caldwell said: "In my mind it's all about doing the very best job we can, not only for our district, but on a broader level for the entire state. And if we can find assistance, support and input to help us make reasonable decisions, that only benefits the public and makes good public policy."
So it's confirmed that this corporate intern influences policy in Caldwell's office. Both of them agree on why the intern is there. Again, this intern is paid full salary by Imanaka Kudo & Fujimoto, which no doubt expects a return for its investment (or why spend the money?).

The story made no mention of a labor representative working in Caldwell's office to bring him that certain perspective that only a working person can give.

No one objects to university students learning how laws are made, but aren't legislators corrupting these students by demonstrating that money and corporate influence is more important than their responsibility to the people who elected them?

Caldwell, Herkes and the others have been caught--the only way they can eliminate the perception that they are giving their ears to corporate interests instead of representing us voters is to clean their offices of embedded corporate lobbyists.



Thanks for exposing this.

I expect unethical behavior from Herkes. That's just his style.

But I'm disappointed in Caldwell. Considering that he owes his seat to union support (including from my union!), it's particularly galling to learn that he has a union-busting attorney on his staff. I'm going to raise holy hell about this.


Thanks for your comment, David.

And for the offer to raise holy hell. I've been surprised at how little public reaction results from the shenanigans at the legislature (and at the city council level, too).

I thank you also for pointing out that Caldwell's "intern" is a union-busting attorney, because I didn't know that.


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