Monday, December 14, 2009

Sen. Day’s decision evokes “revolving-door” controversy

Today is Monday December 14th and it is negative 9 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now; ugh. At some point last night or this morning snow fell as I was awaken this morning by the beeps of a bobcat. A lot took place over the weekend: the Vikings put it to the Bengals, Tiger lost a major sponsor, Sen. Liebermann switches stance on health care reform away from the Democrats, the Senate passed a $1.2T budget filled with pork, and President Obama gave himself a B+ rating. Really a B+? Anyway, that is entirely different topic than I'd like to discuss today. Last week Sen. Dick Day (R-Owatonna) was be lambasted for his decision to leave the State Legislature of Minnesota to lobby for a group, Racino Now, wanting a Racino in Minnesota. While Day will not officially leave office until the first part of January, many suspect he is already working as a consultant for the group looking to lobby Minnesota Legislatures during the upcoming session.

Minnesota does not have any laws that require a "cooling off" period for Legislators to become lobbyist or take other private industry jobs that may benefit from their connections. In a statement released last week by Sen. Day he defended his actions by saying, "Anyone who knows me knows that a Racino at Canterbury Park has been one of my top legislative priorities for 12 years, since 1997 when I first proposed the idea to fund a new Twins ballpark…Now I have the opportunity to work full time toward this end, and I look forward to traveling throughout the state to talk to Minnesotans about the many ways we will all gain from these two Racinos" (http://twincities.bizjournals.com/twincities/stories/2009/12/07/daily22.html). The other Racino location that Sen. Day refers to is Running Aces Harness Park located in Columbus Township.

While the laws of disclosure are rather limited or non-existent for Minnesota Legislatures, there is a ban on gifts that lobbyist can give a Legislator but that does not include campaign donations or hiring the Legislator as a consultant. I can see where a potential conflict of interest can exist but Sen. Day has never hidden his belief that Minnesota can benefit from adding a Racino to the business district; potentially adding $250M to the state confers. Should Minnesota add more disclosure laws to ensure our state politicians act ethically? Rep. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) and Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) are two members of Minnesota's Legislator that plan to introduce "revolving-door" legislation that would "require legislators who retire or lose election to wait two years before they could accept a lobbying position" (http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2009/12/09/14123/days_move_puts_focus_on_legislatures_weak_lobbying_rules).

Is two years to much? Is two years too little? Should a lifetime ban be put in place? Keep in mind that elected officials in the Legislator is really a part-time job which many view it as just that. I know from personal experience that the only time I hear or see my State Senator is when it is politically convenient for her. Despite your view on a Racino, how should Minnesota react to lack of a "revolving-door" policy? Or should the focus be on the full disclosure of activities?