Thursday, February 06, 2014
Flashback to 2006: “embedded lobbyists” worked side-by-side with legislators in the State Capitol
by Larry Geller
Let me take you back to the bad old days at the State Legislature.
The days when you might have trouble getting an appointment to see your own state representative, but right there in that representative’s office was an industry executive working as an “intern” who had access every single day.
I referred to these “interns” as “embedded lobbyists.” The term was even picked up by then Governor Linda Lingle, after which the blog articles got new attention by the commercial media.
Ultimately, by force of blogging (click the link above), the industry people were forced out. It took complaints to the Ethics Commission to do it. After the Commission issued an opinion on the practice, the Senate was forced to change its rules. It was kind of like chasing the rats out of Chinatown.
Rep. Herkes gave me the opportunity I needed to spotlight the problem. He had an HMSA Foundation executive working right there in his office while bills affecting our health insurance rates were before him. In fact, he ended insurance rate regulation for a year before it was re-instated by public demand.
But the Capitol was actually infested with industry representatives. Look in one office or another and you might have found HECO employees, or even a prominent attorney described to me as anti-union.
These “interns” were not college kids learning how state government works. They were experienced industry people with unprecedented access to legislators.
So the “embedded lobbyists” were eradicated from legislators’ offices, but as we now know, lobbyists still find ways to cozy up to lawmakers. There may never be an Ethics Commission opinion against choosing a lobbyist to run a fundraiser. But as I’ve pointed out, it should raise ethical issues (in the common usage of that term, not the legal) should the lawmaker be involved in any way on an issue that friend lobbyist wishes to advance.
If you don’t believe that industry people worked right in legislative offices in Hawaii, check the above link. It’s true.
Allen Smith (Grove Farm) is still embedded in Ron Kouchiʻs office.
Hey, pull up your chair, Allen, I forgot how you wanted this bill worded.