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

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Posted 11:28 PM by

Perzel introduces lobbyist disclosure bill, but public still can't see it

John Perzel made sure a press release about his lobbyist disclosure bill was posted on his Web site, but the bill iteself isn't there or on the state Legislature's Web site. So much for disclosure.I was hoping to give you an in-depth analysis of state House Speaker John Perzel's "Lobbying Accountability Act" tonight, but, of course, no one in the Legislature - including Perzel - saw fit to actually post the bill online on the same day it was introduced.

Instead, we're left to read newspaper accounts of the measure and a one-page press release from Perzel extolling the bill's virtues.

I have a big problem with that.

This legislation was cooked up by Perzel's secret unnamed "research team," bullet-proofed by a cabal of former lawmakers and judges in closed teleconferences, and Perzel has said he plans to rush it through the Legislature and onto Gov. Ed Rendell's desk by the end of the month.

I have an even bigger problem with the fact that, as I previously reported, the bill does not require lobbyists to disclose each gift or meal they bought, who they bought it for, and why.

Instead, lobbyists would have to file reports on aggregate expenditures if they exceed $2,500 a quarter. How is that "real lobbying reform?"

Citing the same reason, state Rep. Greg Vitali, long a proponent of lobbying reform, called Perzel's bill a "major disappointment."

"Under this bill, the public still has no way to gauge the influence of lobbyists on individual legislators and the important issues they decide; there is no way for people to connect lobbyist spending with legislators or their votes; and no way to determine how the millions of dollars in special interest money being spent in Harrisburg is impacting policies on important issues such as education, gambling and tax reform," wrote Vitali, D-Delaware County.

This is what we waited months for? Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation without a lobbyist disclosure law, a state where registered lobbyists outnumber legislators 800 to 253, and a state where $125 million was spent last year in an attempt to influence the people we pay to make our laws.

All I can do for now, though, is repeat what Perzel said and I'm sure that's the way Perzel, R-Philadelphia, and his taxpayer-funded public relations firm want it.

"The bill amends the state's Crimes Code to make any effort to influence legislative action or administrative action a racketeering activity under the state's corrupt organizations law," Perzel's press relase says. "In addition, if a state official or employee, as defined in the act, offers, solicits or accepts any financial benefit in exchange for a decision, opinion, recommendation or vote, or any benefit as consideration for a violation of a known legal duty, it would be considered bribery."

But the proof is in the pudding.

Failing to post the bill online for the public to read makes Perzel the stern Pink Floydian schoolmaster shouting, "How can you can have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

None of this should come as a surpise, considering the state has repeatedly failed a national test on disclosing lawmakers' conflicts of interest, and even the governor can't seem to fill out his annual ethics form correctly.

Only in Pennsylvania folks.
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