Elections and Government Services Administrative Rules of Montana Business Services Notary and Certification Records and Information Management

Argument Against I-153

If you are a member of a church, hunting and fishing organization, union, volunteer firefighter’s organization, or women’s group, if you own a small business or if you are retired, chances are your interests were represented in the last legislature by a lobbyist. Most of the people who participate in these and other groups with you are Montanans . Today you have the right to choose whomever you think is the most effective advocate to look out for your interests. Initiative 153 would take that right away.

Scandals in Washington D.C. are the reason for this proposal. But Montana is not Washington D.C. Here in Montana, through the Commissioner of Political Practices, we know how much money is being spent on lobbying and by whom. We already require lobbyists to register, and to track and report expenditures and contacts with legislators. In addition, Montana’s Constitution mandates open meetings, open public records and full public participation in the workings of our government. This includes the right to know who lobbyists are and who they work for, ensuring that communication with government officials is open for all to see.

I-153 does not deal with any problem that exists in Montana. No corruption in the legislative and lobbying communities or in state government has been shown. I-153 would not better Montana’s government, but it will infringe on our right to hire people of our choice to help us communicate with and persuade state government. I-153 will ban a narrow group of individuals from serving as lobbyists, even though no need has been shown for this restriction on their rights and yours. The only ones who will benefit are long-entrenched lobbyists – because they will not be limited by I-153 – and state government officials and bureaucrats – who will be able to influence the Legislature without competition from other well-informed individuals representing non-governmental interests.

I-153 bars individuals who have served honorably from helping fellow Montanans communicate with the Legislature and other branches of government . The individuals affected by I-153 still have something to offer the State of Montana and should not be treated as if their character is suspect. Barring them from this employment would harm not only them, but Montanans, just like you, who wish to use their expertise to communicate with state government.

Finally, hiring such lobbyists benefits the legislative and governing process, results in better laws, and helps Montanans communicate effectively with their government. The truth of this is shown by the fact that the Governor had four registered lobbyists working directly for him last session, two of whom were former legislators. Similarly, the State of Montana had more than 80 registered lobbyists, almost 20% of the lobbyists that worked with the 2005 Legislature . No other organization, corporation, business or citizen’s group employed as many lobbyists as did the State. Clearly, state government understands the value of lobbyists, including those who are former legislators.

It is unfair, and unwise, to allow government to have this advantage while taking it away from everyone else.

Proponents' Rebuttal

1) Initiative 153 does not in any way affect the right of a citizen to petition government or hire an advocate. Rather, it requires top government officials to "sit out" for two years before they may lobby for hire. As far as we know, there is no "right" to retain the lobbying services of a retired official whose chair in the capitol is still warm, nor is there a right to sell influence after leaving office.

2) Our opponents seem to believe that lobbyists serve the public at large. They do not. They represent special interests. Elected officials represent citizens. It's what they are pledged and paid to do.

3) If an official wants to lobby for a good cause immediately upon retiring from service, I-153 allows him to do so on a volunteer basis. If he wants to lobby for big bucks, he must wait two years.

4) As lobbyists, our opponents know quite well that the lack of separation between government and the lobbying profession is a problem in Helena and Washington alike. It has been a factor in major policy failures, like energy deregulation, which was a success for energy lobbyists and energy companies but a disaster for citizens.

) Opponents' last paragraph is inaccurate. There is nothing wrong with somebody leaving the legislature to work in the executive branch, or leaving the private sector to work for the government. The problem arises when public servants quickly migrate into private for-profit lobbying and end up selling influence.

The PROPONENT argument and rebuttal for this measure were prepared by Governor Brian Schweitzer, Reverend George Harper and State Representative Dave Wanzenreid.

 The OPPONENT argument and rebuttal for this measure were prepared by Jon Metropoulos, State Representative Ron Devlin and Linda Stoll.