Nothing attracts the Rogue Desk’s attention like a whiff of hypocrisy.
In 2007, the Legislature passed a sweeping ethics measure, Senate Bill 10, aimed at limiting lobbyists’ influence in Salem. The bill slashed limits on how much lobbyists could spend on meals for legislators, as well as cut entertaining and travel freebies.
And SB 10 imposed a strict “revolving door” limitation that prohibited ex-lawmakers from lobbying ex-colleagues for two years after leaving the Legislature.
This week’s Rogue, former Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, recently sworn in as Oregon’s secretary of state, wrote the bill; her partner in Rogue-dom, Ethics Commission director Ron Bersin, has now decided to exempt her from it.
On Jan. 8, Bersin issued a puzzling opinion [PDF] that allows lobbying by Brown as well as former Senate colleagues Brad Avakian, the Bureau of Labor and Industries commissioner; and Ben Westlund, new state treasurer.
Bersin says because those elected officials aren’t paid for lobbying like a contract lobbyist, the statute written by Brown doesn’t apply to them.
That’s a stretch. The ex-lawmakers will use their legislative contacts to improve the fortunes of their new offices—exactly what the revolving door statute aims to prevent.
Bersin’s opinion treats these ex-lawmakers better than anybody else with business before the Legislature. And that is unfair.
“Public agencies aren’t supposed to have any more influence on legislation than anyone else,” says former legislative counsel Greg Chaimov, who as a private lawyer has sued to overturn parts of SB 10. “DEQ shouldn’t have any greater influence than Sierra Club or [the] Forest Industries Council.”