"What's black and white and read all over?"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Posted 8:55 PM by

Perzel's 'reform' effort a gift to lobbyists

Lobbyists will only have to disclose the total amount of money they spend and name their client. They won't have to say which bill they were lobbying for or against, or list who got what.

State Rep. John Perzel, Pennsylvania's Speaker of the House, is trying to foist a sham of a lobbyist reform law upon the public but wants it bullet-proof in court.I once told my editor I'd gladly forgo a pay raise if he could give me legal permission to slap anybody who said or did something stupid around me.

If my editor had agreed, my right hand would now be cocked and ready to smack across state Rep. John Perzel's face for foisting yet another election-year sham upon us.

After stymieing lobbying reform legislation for years, the Pennsylvania Speaker of the House claimed in February he could do it better, but only if he could do it behind closed doors.

I've said it before - No good comes from discussing the public's business in secret. But because the Legislature is the only government entity exempt from the state's Sunshine Law, lawmakers get away with it.

It's only taken Perzel two months to prove my point.

First off, the bill isn't being written by Perzel's hand-picked cabal of lawyers, politicos, and former judges and lawmakers who have been meeting via closed teleconference once a month because several of them now live in Florida.

Minutes, and it's a stretch to call them that, from the advisory group's first meeting on March 23 say the bill is actually being drafted by "the research staff" without specifying their names.

So much for public disclosure, which was supposed to be the entire point of this exercise.

The advisory group's mission is merely to make sure the bill can pass Constitutional muster and stand up to a challenge in the courts. Way to set the bar low, folks.

The reason for bullet-proofing the bill becomes obvious the more you read.

The bill, which has yet to be made public, won't force lobbyists to list every meal, theater or sports event ticket, or even trip they buy for lawmakers, according to the minutes.

Lobbyists wouldn't have to disclose much under a proposed bill being prepared in secret by state Rep. John Perzel's research staff.Instead, lobbyists will merely have to report the total amount of money spent in the effort if it's above $2,500 a quarter, who the client was, and then check a box as to the purpose of the lobbying - "legislative action or an administration action," minutes from the April 14 teleconference say.

What a joke.

The whole thing is just a facade so Pennsylvania lawmakers can soon say they're no longer the only state in the nation without a lobbyist disclosure law.

But if it's not going to spell out which lawmakers accepted gifts to pass or pigeonhole a specific bill, then there is no public disclosure.

In order to get elected to any public office in Pennsylvania state law says a candidate must disclose any contribution above $50, who gave the money and for whom they work.

The rules for disclosure shouldn't get more lenient once somebody is elected and has influence on how millions of tax dollars are spent. They should get tougher.
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