Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Commercial Appeal: Wrong, Late and Misleading Again

Saturday's Commercial Appeal has an editorial slapping Governor Phil Bredesen on the backfor "grabbing the initiative" in leading on ethics reform.

Except that the governor hasn't done anything of the sort. What he actually said was: "I will ask them please not to do that." A far cry indeed from decisive action with concrete results.

They write:
Delivering more than lip service to the idea of government ethics reform, Gov. Phil Bredesen grabbed the initiative this week and made it a lot harder to parlay a high-level state government job into a lucrative lobbying career.

Senior administration officials will sign away their rights to lobby state government for one year after leaving their state jobs, the governor announced. That means no more seamless transitions from government service to jobs cashing in on favors and wielding influence for clients with deep pockets.
But as the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports, Bredesen's executive order doesn't do that:
As it turns out, Gov. Phil Bredesen cannot use an executive order to stop high-ranking members of his administration from becoming lobbyists.

Instead, he can only ask politely and hope the Legislature eventually enacts a law to implement a ban on government officials becoming lobbyists for a year after they leave office, Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said Thursday....

However, Bob Cooper, legal counsel to the governor, has decided the governor cannot legally impose an anti-revolving door restriction on state officials through an executive order, Lenker said.

Once an administration official leaves state government, he or she would no longer be subject to an executive order, which applies only to those who are part of government.
You'd like to think the kids at the CA would get these things right. Used to be any editorial usually followed the news story it derived from by a couple of days, as they thought things over and then composed the editorial, and then waited for the next publication day. Now, though, they seem to fire off these editorials that day, hot on the heels of whatever the story of the day was. It's making for slipshod work.

And remember, this is the same governor who, last spring, waved off any need for precisely the kind of action the CA calls for. He punted the ball to the Legislature who eventually passed some very watered down "reforms."

Then, the Tennessee Waltz indictments and the ongoing investigations happened. Suddenly, Bredesen found himself having to explain his previous stance. Nowadays, the paper doesn't even bother to mention it. Instead they only care to mention Bredesen's catch-up efforts in his "blue ribbon" (what a tired cliche) reform panel.

Nor do they mention the 800 pound gorilla of ethics reform: Betty Anderson Naifeh, the wife of the Speaker of the House, Jimmy Naifeh and, by all accounts, the most powerful and influential lobbyist in Nashville.

Nor do they mention what Bob Krumm has noted. The paper glosses over the calls for a November special session in favor of a January one. Krumm observes that by waiting until January, any action they pass will likely not take effect until mid-2007, thereby leaving the all-important 2006 election cycle free and clear for just the kind of abuse we've endured for years in Tennessee.

A paper supposedly serious about ethics reform, it seems to me, would be demanding swifter action, instead of allowing the pigs to fill the trough one last time.

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