Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman published his take on the first statewide radio ad from Republican Christian Fong. Dorman's not buying into Fong's promise to "end the use of taxpayer money to fund lobbyists." He makes some excellent points:
For starters, I don't think leaving the lobbying playing field to non-government interests only is smart. I'm not sure how the public interest is advanced by allowing, for example, a corporation to lobby for loosened pollution rules while barring state regulators from pushing the other way.
Second, lawmakers would lose a pretty important resource. I can't tell you how many times I saw members of a legislative committee get stuck in the complex details of a piece of legislation before turning to the audience and finding a department lobbyist who swiftly cleared up the confusion. Walling off one branch of government from another is going to slow down a process that's already painfully slow.
Third, it really doesn't bother me that state departments pursue legislative agendas. It's not OK for the attorney general to lobby for tougher criminal penalties? The Department of Public Health should be barred from advocating for pandemic preparedness funding?
I agree totally, and Fong should be prepared to refute Dorman's points if he is a serious thinker about policy, as opposed to a candidate taking cheap shots.
My only problem with Dorman's column is that he cites this Des Moines Register report as saying that "state departments spent $1.8 million on lobbying state lawmakers" during the past year. In fact, the Register arrived at that figure by including lobbying expenses of "state agencies, municipalities, county agencies and associations where member dues are paid by taxpayers, such as the Iowa League of Cities."
Ask anyone who has spent time at the statehouse; the League of Cities and State Association of Counties are forces to be reckoned with. It's not hard to see why, since a lot of bills considered by the legislature affect city and county governments. I wonder whether Fong really thinks the governor should ban cities and counties from making their voices heard with state legislators.
In related news, Fong still hasn't corrected his ad's demonstrably false statement about the I-JOBS bonding initiative. He knows how financial markets work, and it doesn't reflect well on him that he would mislead voters by claiming the state of Iowa is borrowing money to pay our bills.