Argument For I-153
I am proud to join Reverend George Harper and Representative Dave Wanzenried in writing this statement, not as Governor -- but as a private citizen like Dave and George, concerned about the future of our state and the strength of our democracy in the face of increasing lobbying scandals around the nation.
Ballot Initiative 153 will regulate the lobbying industry and keep our government clean, by setting out a two-year ban on lobbying by former government officials. If it passes, I-153 will be among the strongest lobbying reform measures in America.
Montana needs tougher laws to control the lobbying industry and its interaction with government officials, known as the "revolving door". It is currently legal for top government officials, including legislators and even the governor and his top staff, to leave office and immediately go to work as lobbyists representing the very industries that they once set policy for. This type of maneuver is at the center of the Washington , DC lobbying scandals and it occurs routinely in state government. It puts a "for-sale" sign on public service and allows well-funded advocacy groups to buy access at the expense of the ordinary citizen who should be government's first concern. And it tempts officials to focus on lucrative opportunities at the end of their tenure. To borrow a sports analogy, if an NFL referee officiates the Super Bowl, and on the next day gets hired by the winning team for a big salary, would you feel the game had been honestly officiated? We need to know that our public servants are working for us, not cutting deals for private industry with hopes of landing a job when they leave office.
I-153 proposes a simple solution. It requires top state officials to wait two years before they may become licensed lobbyists. This waiting period applies to the people in government with the greatest power, including 1) legislators, 2) all of the elected officials of the executive branch, 3) the justices of the Supreme Court, 4) the top officials of the University system, and 5) the personal staff of elected officials. The waiting period does not apply to non-exempt state workers or local or county officials and does not prohibit representing oneself before the government. It also does not affect volunteer or other minimal lobbying. It only applies to paid, professional lobbying that requires a license.
The purpose of government is to serve citizens and society, not professional lobbyists and their clients. We'll let our federal officials figure out how to clean up the mess in Washington . Meanwhile, we, the people, can lead the way in Montana by passing I-153 to keep our state government clean.
Rev. George Harper
Rep. Dave Wanzenried
I-153 would prohibit groups representing Montana citizens from hiring the lobbyists of their choice—former legislators and some state employees who could not lobby for two years after leaving office.
But state or local government bureaucrats who lobby as a part of their job would not be affected. Former legislators could lobby for the state, but not for the AARP, the Montana Catholic Conference, the Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers, the National Rifle Association, Montana Cattle Women, Inc., the Montana Grain Growers Association, or any of the hundreds of organizations that hire lobbyists.
If I-153 is a good idea, it should apply to government bureaucracy as well as Montana citizens.
But I-153 is not a good idea. Today, you have the right to hire whomever you believe will best represent your interests to the Montana Legislature. If I-153 passes, only state and local governments will have that right.
Montana’s Constitution guarantees open government, and that guarantee applies to lobbying activities. Entities that lobby must report their expenses, and those reports are open for everyone to see.
I-153 may make for good political rhetoric, but it is bad government.
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.