Hank Brown: Amendment 49 keeps lobbyists in line | SummitDaily.com

Hank Brown: Amendment 49 keeps lobbyists in line

Hank Brown

Should taxpayers be required to subsidize the collection of political contributions and payments to lobbyists?

All of us would defend a citizen’s right to lobby government or donate to a campaign. But forcing taxpayers to subsidize someone else’s collection and payment of lobbying funds is an entirely different question. Amendment 49 establishes “Ethical Standards” for our public payroll systems.

Both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News call it a simple good government reform. I agree!

Government shouldn’t be the bagman for special interests.

Amendment 49 stops government from bundling and funneling money to special interests and their lobbyists through our payroll system.

Currently many political groups, some unions and some not, collect their political contributions from government employees right through the payroll system that you and I pay for. Governments at many levels in Colorado pass this money to political groups by directly writing them checks. These groups then turn around and use the money to elect candidates, lobby policy makers, and even give campaign contributions right back to the same politicians who signed the checks.

When endorsing 49 the Rocky Mountain News described it, “Government provides a free dues collection service for major lobbyists.” The Post said, “Amendment 49 will stop the blatant conflict of interest that now allows politicians to collect dues that are used to elect and re-elect those very same politicians.”

Under Ethical Standards, if a political organization wants a government employee to give them money, they will simply have to go to that employee and ask them for it. They won’t be able to just suck it out of a worker’s paycheck. In other words they’ll have to do it the way all other political groups get their money-from their members directly, not from government. Amendment 49 levels the playing field.

It is unethical for government to be the banker, accountant, and collection agent for lobbyists. Instead government should be using our limited tax dollars, and our precious civil servants’ time, to provide crucial public services, not funneling cash.

Some opponents of Ethical Standards say 49 will hurt government employees’ ability to give money to their causes. Nothing in 49 stops any employee from giving as much as she wants toward any organization she supports.

Those who like receiving our workers’ money claim it will be an inconvenience for employees. But how can that be? In this day of online banking, automatic withdrawals, credit cards and debit cards, arranging regular payments to any organization is a breeze.

The silliest claim made is that this will somehow make it tougher for firefighters, cops, teachers or nurses to do their job. The Grand Junction Sentinel calls that “laughable,” the News calls the claim, “nonsense.”

This simple reform doesn’t change how unions or membership groups work or organize. It doesn’t interfere with workers’ rights to give political money to any group. And it doesn’t affect private employers. Amendment 49 is only a restriction on government. The Post called it “a modest ethical rule.”

This is also not an untested idea. Currently a dozen counties, representing over half the state’s population, have already put the language on their books.

The well-heeled lobbying groups opposing Ethical Standards are going to spend millions to scare you to vote no. I hope you won’t be fooled. Amendment 49 helps keep lobbyists in line. Vote yes. Get more information at http://www.EthicalStandardsNow.com.

Hank Brown is a former U.S. Senator and President Emeritus of the University of Colorado

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