Serious consideration is being given to a measure well worth its time, SCR 1009, bringing an end to public agency lobbyists. It accomplishes a simple goal: stopping government from using your money to lobby itself.
Ridiculous as it may seem, government-lobbying-itself happens frequently in Arizona, and in astonishing amounts. From 2000-2005, various Arizona government bodies, from the Department of Transportation to the Governors Office, spent over $10 million dollars on lobbying efforts. Based on head counts alone, government lobbyists outnumber legislators 10 to 1. No wonder citizens often feel shut out of the democratic process.
Some might wonder why government should be stopped from lobbying in the first place. After all, to function effectively, cities and counties have a practical need to share information. But there is a big difference between sharing data, like crime statistics, and lobbying against reform efforts supported by Arizonans, like broadening school choice options. The law supports that difference, even if public agency lobbyists claim they don't understand it.
When it comes right down to it, taxpayer-funded lobbying is toxic to the democratic process. It pits government agency interests against citizens interests. Imagine having to compete against lobbyists from school districts, the Department of Education, and the State Board of Education when school choice measures are up before the legislature. That kind of lobbying drowns out citizens voices, putting them at a distinct disadvantage. At the end of the day, this practice impinges on our constitutionally protected rights of speech, assembly, and petition.
Fortunately, taxpayer-funded lobbying is a practice simple to stop. End government money flowing to lobbyists, eliminate staff lobbyists, and prohibit membership by government bodies in lobbying organizations. As it is, serious problems sometimes have simple solutions.
Benjamin Barr is a Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies.
Goldwater Institute: Arizona Taxpayers Pick Up $10 Million Tab for Government Lobbyists