Curtailing power of professional influence in Minnesota

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer, “Democracy for sale or rent,” is out today. It’s about lobbying, specifically how the power-dynamic of our elected government is shaped by agents with an unfair advantage. 

Lobbying has been part of American politics from the beginning. 

In the colonial days, an elected delegate strolling the town square might find his powdered wig misted with port wine from the hot breath of an ambitious warehouse tycoon. Bear in mind, we are a nation founded to spite taxation and trade policy, something the founders wisely rebranded as “freedom.”

In 1830, the word “lobbying” was first printed in its modern context, referring to the influence-seekers who crowded the lobbies of government buildings. They were an unregulated, self-interested lot. Years later, one of them shot President Garfield. 

Over the many decades since, lobbying became a profession. Like any profession, it can be performed honorably or solely for profit and power. In more recent years, we’ve watched the porous border between elected officials and lobbyists break open. Lawmakers retire or even resign to take influence positions of various types.

Here in Minnesota, several bills in recent years sought to change that. One could put an interesting question on the ballot in November. Regardless, Minnesotans should better understand how influence works at the Legislature. It’s not so simple as many think. Shades of gray and situational ethics turn the path from public will to public policy into a complicated journey.

Read more in “Democracy for sale or rent” in the Minnesota Reformer.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.