Local News

State Lobbying Group Calls For More Reform

Posted February 6, 2006

— A lobbying reform group made up of both state Republicans and Democrats unveiled new proposals Monday designed to increase public confidence by establishing more guidelines for state government, which include stopping altogether the flow of money from lobbyists to state leaders.

For every state lawmaker in North Carolina, there are nearly four registered lobbyists pushing an agenda. The North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying Reform believes too many lobbyists influence legislation with money.

"They have an unfair advantage. They have more opportunity to influence legislators by providing them gifts and wining and dining and throwing high-class fundraisers for them," said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director of North Carolina Public Interest Research Group.

Former U.S. Congressman and former chair of the state GOP Bill Cobey is lending his voice to the movement to limit lobbyists to no more than $10 meals or gifts for lawmakers.

The Coalition is also calling for a ban on lobbyist campaign contributions. Instead of relying on constituents, Cobey said too many politicians lean on lobbyists.

"This is out of bounds and should not be done because it's not ethical," he said.

The proposal comes just two days before the State Board of Elections hold hearings into the campaign finances of House Speaker Jim Black, who is at the center of state and federal investigations into the link of power and money.

Under pressure, Black pledged to no longer accept gifts from lobbyists. The coalition hopes the law will hold all legislators to that.

"Until we remove that part of it, we're always going to be plagued with a very skeptical public and system that invites problems that perhaps we might be seeing now," said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause N.C.

Money and ethics are very popular right now. In addition to lobbying reform, the state Attorney General has called for tougher ethics laws. A special legislative ethics committee holds its second meeting this week.

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