Friday, May 15, 2009

Special Interests Spend over $235,000 to Wine and Dine Legislators

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board released a report yesterday showing special interest spent over $235,000 on events to wine and dine State Legislators during the 2009 legislative session.

From Iowa Independent...

Despite a poor economy, groups spent nearly $41,000 more in 2009 than they did in 2008. In fact, this year has seen the most spending on legislative receptions since 2005, according the the IECDB.

“These reports show that the political economy in Iowa remains robust,” said Charlie Smithson, the IECDB’s executive director.

Reports were filed for 90 receptions held during the session. Reports disclose the amount spent on food, beverage and entertainment regardless of the number of people who attend. Because every legislator is invited to attend, the parties are not subject to the state’s gift law, which prohibits gifts to government officials of more than $3.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to special interest money seeping into the pockets of state lawmakers. Iowa should expand the gift law to include events like these, as well as enacting a campaign contribution limits similar to the $2,500 limit at the federal level. These would be easy to steps to clean up fundraising and provide greater transparency in the legislative process.

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