Keep ethics rules in place
When people hear the term “lobbyists,” they often picture an individual wooing politicians on behalf of big business or an industry in order to sway policy. People believe elected officials should make the best decisions possible without needing anything in return.
According to the state Legislative Auditor’s office, between 2002-2006, Public Service Commission’s (PSC) members, staffers and spouses received over $16,000 in free meals from utility companies. In 2009, the PSC adopted ethics standards that prohibited commissioners and those closest to them from accepting free items of any sort from the companies.
Commissioner Mike Francis (R-Crowley), who joined the commission this year, wants that rule changed. A longtime businessman, he pointed out that business lunches are standard practice. He acknowledged that some former PSC members “did some things they shouldn’t have” but that such incidents are in the past.
Commissioner Foster Campbell, on the other hand, does not want the rule changed, noting that what the PSC does is a public service.
The people of this state would be better served if ethics rules concerning lobbyists and freebees were dramatically revamped for all elected officials. While it is true that many businesses conduct working meetings over meals, it is not often a necessity. With that said, no elected official needs to enjoy a free meal to discuss concerns, ideas or politics.
A free meal does not signify anyone is being bought. However, the PSC would hold a more trustworthy image in the eyes of voters if it continued to avoid accepting free items. Many voters are skeptical of the relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers.
After all, why does a person need to be wined and dined before making a fair, informed decision?
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