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Lobbying realities

Greater transparency wasn’t something Jim Risch was often known for as a leader in the Idaho Senate – caucuses among the senators were rightfully closed, he would note, since what was discussed in them was our business. Others would take issue with just whose business it was.

Jim RischBut this post is by way of praise: In one of his early acts as governor, he has taken an action which serves to expand openness in his own office, and in such a way that it highlights as well the way influencers ply their trade.

The people whose job it is to work with government on behalf of organizations – associations, businesses, labor, other governments, whoever – sometimes find it necessary to deal directly with elected officials. It often happens that way in the case, say, of the Idaho Legislature, where lawmakers ordinarily have no staff people and have to handle all their own business themselves. More often, though, in the bigger picture, those government relations pros are dealing with staff. In Congress, most lobbyists only seldom talk to The Senator; most of their work is done with The Senator’s staff. Even in state agencies that’s often true, and often as well in states (such as Washington and Oregon) where legislators do have staff. And so with governors as well; most of the time, most people who have business with the governor do most of that business with the people who work for the governor.

From Risch’s office:

Governor Jim Risch today signed an Executive Order extending a new law to cover certain staff members in the governor’s office. House Bill 707, which took effect July 1, requires individuals who lobby executive officials to register and file reports with the Secretary of State.

The Executive Order signed by Governor Risch requires those that contact certain staff members in his office in an attempt to influence a decision to also register as an executive official lobbyist.

“In reviewing the law it appears that it does not cover employees of my office. While the law requires registration and reporting by lobbyists that discuss issues with me, due to time and schedule constraints, those same people will often talk to my staff instead,” said Governor Risch. “The purpose of the law is to report the expenditures of lobbyists that work to influence a decision. This Executive Order will extend that law and require registration and reporting when contact is made with my staff as well.”

Positions covered by Executive Order 2006-22 will be the Chief of Staff, Senior Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Legal Counsel, Natural Resource Specialist and Executive Assistant to the Governor. The Executive Order will cease to be effective on December 31, 2006.

The law already requires the registration of individuals who contact agency directors, deputy directors, division administrators and bureau chiefs and attempt to influence decisions regarding rules, rates, procurement, contract bids, financial services or bond issues.

“It is very clear to me that this law requires registration and reporting when attempting to influence a decision at the executive level. This Executive Order clarifies that requirement when dealing with my staff,” said Risch.

Just so. And some futther expansion would be warranted, too. But this order points a useful direction.

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