The Legislative Ethics Board is in the process of determining the limits on how often legislators can accept free meals from lobbyists. My question is: Why would legislators be held to a different standard than all other state employees?
As a state employee (recently retired) I could accept essentially nothing worth more than $5 (say, an inexpensive water bottle presented to all members of a committee). All staff in my agency were required to take regular ethics training to make sure the rules were clear. These rules applied to everyone — not just those in positions of authority.
Our state legislators make powerful decisions. Lobbyists aren’t buying those meals just because they’re such nice folks. The job of lobbyists, according to Webster, is “to sway public officials toward a desired action.”
Perhaps no legislator has ever been unduly influenced by forming a personal relationship with a lobbyist. However, at a time when confidence in government is at a remarkably low point and many of us feel our democracy is being bought and sold, why in the world would the Ethics Board (or legislators) want to leave any possible question?
Legislators should meet the same high ethical standards they expect of other state employees.