Testimony against taxpayer-funded lobbying

The following testimony from John Todd explains some of the harmful effects of taxpayer-funded lobbying. Isn’t it terrible that that interests of governmental bodies like the city and county you live in or your local school district are different from your interests? As John explains, local government has become a special interest group, and like other such groups, it must lobby for its own interests.

February 18, 2008

House Committee on Federal and State Affairs
Kansas Legislature
State Capitol
Topeka, Kansas 66612

Subject: My testimony is presented in SUPPORT OF House Bill No. 2775 concerning governmental ethics; requiring the reporting of lobbying expenses by municipalities.

Mr. Chairman, and members of the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs, my name is John Todd and I live in Wichita, Kansas. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak to you in Support of the passage of House Bill No. 2775 concerning governmental ethics; requiring the reporting of lobbying expenses by municipalities.

“Government lobbying is toxic to representative democracy,” says Goldwater Institute Chairman Tom Patterson. “It distorts the democratic process by pitting government interest against those of citizens. Letting government agents lobby with taxpayer funds … drowns out the voices of regular citizens, putting private citizens at a distinct disadvantage.” (See Goldwater Institute Policy Report No. 217, January 23, 2007 “Your Tax Dollars at Work: The Implications of Taxpayer-funded Lobbying” by Benjamin Barr at www.goldwaterinstitute.org)

I have personally witnessed this abuse over the last several years as a citizen appearing before a number of legislative committees. During the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions government lobbyists and their associations opposed popular reform efforts in the area of eminent domain.

In previous legislative sessions government lobbyists were successful in blocking two attempts to obtain Municipal Court Reform that would have allowed the election of Municipal Court Judges by the people. A third attempt at Municipal Court reform was opposed by a lobbyist from the Kansas Supreme Court itself, resulting in this measure never making it out of committee.

Local government in Wichita and Sedgwick County has become “big business” with government spending for our city, county, and local school district at nearly $1.4 Billion. In addition to their taxpayer-funded associations like the League of Kansas Municipalities, the Kansas Association of Counties, and the Kansas Association of School Boards, these government entities employ their own taxpayer-funded lobbyists.

At a minimum, the passage of House Bill #2775 is a start towards making taxpayer-funded government lobbying more transparent and accountable to the people. I would request that you study the report “Your Tax Dollars at Work: The Implications of Taxpayer-funded Lobbying” by Benjamin Barr posted on the Goldwater Policy web page, as referenced above, to consider additional taxpayer-funded lobbying reform that is needed in Kansas.


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