making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
The principal value of lobbying, according to both lobbyists and government officials, is the expert information lobbyists provide. The view is often stated that, with the resources they have, government officials could not effectively do their job without the expertise they obtain from lobbyists.

The public, however, has no idea how this information is used. When it turns out that a lobbyist effectively wrote a bill, argument, letter, or speech that an official presents as his own...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in the November 29 issue of The Economist, when China banned gifts to government officials, sales of the principal producer of baijiu, a sort of Chinese vodka, fell 78% in just a year.

The only sales that would likely go down if gifts were banned across the board in the United States would be restaurant and golf club sales. That is because petty bribery is less a problem here than the ongoing reciprocal relationships between lobbyists and the...
Robert Wechsler
Former lobbyist, now jailbird, Kevin A. Ring shared some valuable words of wisdom in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post this week.

He says that the gift limit should be zero, because any other limit will be abused (what he doesn't say is that any exception will also be abused). He also notes that...
Robert Wechsler
There is a front-page article in the New York Times today about the recent increase in lobbying and entertaining state attorneys general (AGs), as well as in campaign contributions from businesses who have a financial interest in decisions that these AGs make, especially with respect to suits they file on behalf of consumers.

Since many state lobbying...
Robert Wechsler
There are several problems with the settlement the Massachusetts AG reached last week with a lobbying firm that the AG alleged had entered into an illegal contingency fee agreement with a hospital. According to the AG's press release, the lobbying firm would be paid a percentage of funds paid to the hospital pursuant to legislation the lobbyist would try to help get passed...
Robert Wechsler
Most people believe that lobbyists are guns hired to influence government officials, and most lobbying laws reflect this by applying only to those who lobby, not to the clients for whom they lobby. Unlike most laws, lobbying laws focus on agents rather than their principals.

This problem extend beyond these jurisdictions. When business executives who work in cities and counties that require only agents to register as lobbyists seek work in jurisdictions that require principals to...