Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, announced today he's leaving the Senate to become a lobbyist for the group trying to bring a "racino" -- a horse track and gambling casino -- to the Twin Cities.
Minnesota doesn't have a law -- as Congress does -- banning legislators from lobbying activities for a year after they leave office.
The Star Tribune's Capitol expert, Lori Sturdevant, thinks it might be time to consider the idea:
Day is by no means the first legislator to leave office at midterm and take a lobbying job. But as a former minority leader, he is making a particularly visible move -- one that's sure to renew calls for restrictions on lawmakers' ability to abruptly become pleaders among their former colleagues. The ability of interest groups to dangle offers of lucrative positions in front of the legislators whose votes they are soliciting has come under fire from reformers both in St. Paul and in Washington.
But the lobbying world is not of much interest to former lawmakers, judging by the relatively few who are registered lobbyists. A very quick glance today revealed:
Kevin Goodno (91-02)
John Hottinger (91-02)
Phil Krinkie (91-06)
Gary Laidig (73-82)
Bert McKasy (83-88)
Mary Joe McGuire (89-02)
Roger Moe (71-02)
Steve Novak (75-00)
Douglas Peterson (91-92)
Leonard Price (83-02)
Julie Sabo (01-02)
Russ Standon (73-78)
Robert Vanasek (83-92)
Charles Weaver (89-98)
Tim Wilkin (99-06)
Tom Workman (93-02)
A 2005 Center for Public Integrity survey put the number at 50, but very few had gone directly from legislating to lobbying.
Could some organization dangle a job in front of a legislator in exchange for favorable action on legislation? Sure, but why would you make it obvious by taking a lobbyist position, where your ties are right out there in the open under current Minnesota law?
In the private sector, businesses have set up similar types of restrictions on current and former employees. For example, in the financial sector, we have severe penalties for “insider trading.” These laws are meant to prevent company insiders from using non-public information to trade stocks for personal gain. This is analogous to what happens when a former legislator becomes a lobbyist and treads on his or her personal connections to secure access for clients that the general public does not enjoy.
The financial sector is not the only private sector arena that has these types of laws. Many companies require their employees to sign non-compete agreements that prevent them from working for competitors for a certain period of time. I see the revolving door legislation as a non-compete agreement that legislators are signing with their employer – the citizens of Minnesota. Legislators would agree to not compete against the public interest by refraining from seeking employment as a lobbyist for two years upon leaving elected office.
Comparing the retired legislator list and the lobbyist list I actually get a few more names. This list is not exhaustive yet.
Anderson, Bruce (Buzz), W
Anderson, Wendell, R
Arlandson, John, R
Bergson, Brian, M
Berkelman, Thomas, R
Clark, James, T
Dicklich, Ronald, R
Girard, James, L
Haas, William, G Jr
Johnson, Robert, D (and A)
Johnson, Douglas, J
Johnson, David, H
Knuth, Daniel, J
Laidig, Gary, W (Bob notes: on original list)
Leighton, Robert, J Jr
McKasy, Bert, J (Bob notes: on original list)
Moe, Roger, D (Bob notes: on original list)
Novak, Steven, G (Bob notes: on original list)
O'Neill, Joseph, T
Otis, Todd, H
Peterson, Douglas (Bob notes: on original list)
Schreiber, William, H
Stanton, Russell, P
Tennessen, Robert, J
Vanasek, Robert (Bob notes: on original list)
Weaver, Charles, R (Bob notes: on original list)
We can and should enact whatever lobbing restrictions are appropriate for former legislators. I don't see what the problem is with a lifetime ban on lobbying. It's not an onerous restriction. There are plenty of other possible career paths for these bright and hard working indivuduals.