Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stupid is as stupid does

Yesterday we learned that three Oregon legislators -- all Republicans -- accepted expense-paid trips to Maui for the 2004 Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association convention. The problem, the story detailed, is that they didn't mention the trip on their annual disclosure forms.

I have no problem with legislators accepting a trip to Hawaii from lobbyists. I don't think this was a malicious, deliberate effort at deception. But I do think this was a stupid move by a veteran legislator -- David Nelson has been in the Senate for 10 years -- and two members of the House leadership (Wayne Scott is the House majority leader, and Derrick Kitts is majority whip and a candidate for Oregon's First District in the U.S. House).

First, why would they take the word of a lobbyist -- even one who has been in the business for three decades -- that they didn't have to report a trip? That doesn't show much common sense. If a lobbyist can curry favor from legislators and keep it out of the limelight, don't you think he would do so? Paul Romain, the lobbyist in question, told the Oregonian:
Romain said he decided the 2004 conference didn't need to be reported to ethics officials because individual distributors -- not the beer and wine group -- paid the legislators' expenses.
He decided. He didn't check. He decided. And so it sounds like an end-run around the rules. And it makes the three legislators sound, at best, naïve. Kappy Eaton from the League of Women Voters said it best:
You, as a legislator, should know where the line is, and if you have a question, you don't ask the lobbyist. You ask the commission. It's the fox in the henhouse.
Second, why -- when they're flying to Hawaii, when they're spending four nights at a hotel that costs more than $300 a night, when they're eating for free, when they're playing golf at more than $100 per round -- would they think that the rules about disclosure don't apply?

The lobbying group probably spent more than $3,000 on their behalf -- each. That's just a smidge more than $144, which was the minimum amount that triggered disclosure requirements in 2004.

I had to laugh at this line in the Oregonian's story, however:
The lack of disclosure could spark an inquiry from the state ethics commission, which regulates the conduct of public officials and lobbyists. A violation carries a $1,000 fine. No paperwork had been filed with the ethics commission Tuesday.
In other words, no one has filed a complaint (hint hint), but if they did (hint hint), we might be persuaded to write a story (hint), and maybe even put it on the front page (hint).


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