Joel Barkin, the executive director of the Progressive States Network writes today in the Baltimore Sun that the growing influence of big industry lobbyists is not just a concern inside the Beltway, business interests are beefing up their state-level lobbyists as well to beat back policies that might cost them money. What to do? Work for public financing in of elections in your state, for one.
The revolving door between state elected office and lobby shops is well-oiled and working around the country creating uncomfortable and at times downright corrupt ties between the people writing the bills and the people seeking to profit from their passage or failure. Fortunately, as Barkin notes, several states have taken preemptive steps to counter an environment in which influence is bought and sold: they've implemented Clean Elections-style public financing and given candidates for office a way to avoid one of the more powerful tools in the lobbyist arsenal: campaign cash.
Consider this contrast:
In Maine, Arizona and Connecticut, clean elections - where candidates who demonstrate broad public support receive public financing for their campaigns - have proved popular among citizens. This would be in stark contrast to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who vetoed a bill to require that Wal-Mart offer decent health insurance to its employees while neglecting to mention that the company had held a fundraiser for him.
Maryland may have the opportunity to pass Clean Elections into law this year, let's hope they join the ranks of Arizona, Maine and Connecticut as a state leading the way to cut the cord between elected officials and lobbyist campaign money.