For good or ill, lobbyist system is the one in place

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Voters elect people to keep an eye on government and decide how things will be done and how our tax dollars will be spent.

That's how our representative democracy works, right?

Theoretically, yes.

Unless you follow the advice of "Deep Throat" from the Watergate era, and "follow the money."

In the case of public entities, most of them already supported by taxpayers, the money is going to lobbyists who are well paid to make sure the dollars keep flowing toward their bosses.

How much money's involved?

In the case of the University of Nebraska, the biggest spender in the public entity list, it amounts to $100,000 a year.

The City of Lincoln pays nearly $85,000, Lincoln Public Schools nearly $80,000, Lancaster County Commissioners nearly $50,000, the Lincoln Electric System nearly $35,000 and the Lincoln Airport Authority $25,000 a year.

Those are all entities right in the same town where the Legislature meets, derailing the argument that council or board members couldn't do much of the lobbying work themselves.

Others paying lobbyists range from the Omaha Public Schools at $63,750 and Nebraska Public Power District for nearly $70,000, down to Grand Island Northwest Public Schools for $3,000.

"Lobbyists lobbying against taxpayers" is how one critic describes it. And, it does seem like an outrage that taxpayer dollars have to be spent in order to spend more taxpayer dollars.

But that's the system that's in place, and any public entity that doesn't play the game is at a disadvantage. We've made the argument that Nebraska lawmakers are underpaid and shackled by term limits, but whether correcting those problems could reduce the influence of lobbyists is an issue for another day.

In the meantime, perhaps taxpayers should support their own lobbyists, like Common Cause Nebraska or other reputable groups. Spending money to save money -- now there's a novel idea.

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  • In my opinion, Lobbyists are the reason that so many useless, government funded programs still exist. Lobbyists do nothing more than use false numbers and proganda to swindle money from tax payers.

    -- Posted by seentoomuch on Wed, Mar 18, 2009, at 3:14 PM
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