This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
Thank heaven for public disclosure. Without it, Washingtonians might not know how their lawmakers avoid starvation in the middle of a legislative session.
They do get hungry, as evidenced by the $200,000 lobbyists spent this year wining, dining and entertaining them after exhausting days of committee hearings and floor votes. With a special session coming up, lobbyists and legislators alike will be licking their chops for more.
There’s nothing wrong with lobbying per se. Citizens have every right to let officials know what they want from the Legislature. In fact, political speech and petitioning the government are guaranteed by First Amendment.
But it can be unseemly and suspicious when – as Austin Jenkins of Northwest News Network reported last week – lawmakers are eating steak with special interest reps by night while the Legislature’s making sausage by day.
The restaurant tab isn’t really the point. It reflects coziness more than it creates it.
One of Olympia’s top lobbyists, Steve Gano of Lakewood, is disarmingly honest about the game. The dinners, he told Jenkins, are about “getting to know folks on a one-to-one basis.”
That translates into access, a precious commodity when laws are being shaped.
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