Block revolving door at Capitol

2013-01-11T05:00:00Z Block revolving door at CapitolWisconsin State Journal editorial
January 11, 2013 5:00 am  • 

Former Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald just left his seat and leadership position in the state Legislature.

But he won't be leaving the Capitol.

Fitzgerald is the latest in a long line of state lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — who swap public service for more lucrative careers as private lobbyists.

It's a revolving door that Wisconsin allows to spin far too fast.

Fitzgerald's successor in the Legislature had just been sworn into office on Monday when, a day later, Fitzgerald registered to lobby for American Traffic Solutions. By Thursday, Fitzgerald had added another client: School Choice Wisconsin.

Most states have laws controlling this troubling practice.

Wisconsin should, too.

The quick transition from public servant to hired gun threatens the integrity of state government in two ways.

First, the revolving door mixes public and private interests in a potentially corrupting relationship. A lawmaker might well be influenced in public duties by the promise of a lucrative lobbying job. The result could be policies that serve a private interest rather than the common good.

Second, a former lawmaker has connections especially valuable to a lobbying firm. Not only do those connections allow the former lawmaker to cash in for personal gain on experience as a public servant, but they also create opportunities to abuse the public process for the private benefit of clients.

Iowa bans lawmakers from lobbying for at least two years after they leave office. Even Congress has adopted this rule. The two-year delay diminishes a public official's immediate influence, power and knowledge.

"So it doesn't appear there's some untoward or inappropriate ability to influence public decisions," said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. "It's just incredibly unseemly for someone to occupy a position of influence and power in the Legislature and then trade on that almost immediately afterward in a lobbying position."

Heck's good government group long has pushed for legislation to guard the revolving door. The new Legislature should finally get this done.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. Report Abuse
    - January 13, 2013 5:46 pm
    Well if we have a law making it illegal to do so and they get caught then I guess the law needs to have some Real Teeth and penalties.
  2. Scooters Conscience
    Report Abuse
    Scooters Conscience - January 11, 2013 10:15 pm
    Wow! Jeff Fitzgerald is going to work for Traffic Safety Solutions? News to me, but not to FOX News (the only news source I trust). FOX news did a story on this scam corporation that revealed they use their own "non profit" organization to create "public service announcements" that promote legislation to force cities to buy so-called "red light cameras". Here's the FOX news story on this scam, the same company that Jeff Fitzgerald is going to be a lobbyist for.
    And I thought I was bad. Fitzgerald is making me look like an angel.
  3. jimri
    Report Abuse
    jimri - January 11, 2013 10:29 am
    But they do it in public!
  4. bookman21
    Report Abuse
    bookman21 - January 11, 2013 9:52 am
    I take offense at the term 'public service'. State legislators are in the business of serving themselves.
  5. jimri
    Report Abuse
    jimri - January 11, 2013 9:28 am
    Time to dust off the "anti-revolving-door tax" that Glenn Reynolds (U-Tenn Law School) has long proposed (albeit for US congress, although useful at the state level): a 50% surtax on any earnings above what what earned in office as a representative, for the five years after leaving office. True tax reform!
  6. Report Abuse
    - January 11, 2013 8:51 am
    Block it!
    This is one of the largest problems we face with regard to our elected officials. Follow the Money. Beginning at the state level but really a problem at the federal level.
    They all leave office rich or become Very rich after they leave. AT OUR EXPENSE
  7. witness2012
    Report Abuse
    witness2012 - January 11, 2013 8:31 am
    Absolutely block them from being paid lobbyists for at least two years. There is a reason that these legislators are no longer in office and no longer an active part of the legislative process.

    Let's try to create the appearance of impartiality.
  8. timbo
    Report Abuse
    timbo - January 11, 2013 7:28 am
    “Block revolving door”? That sounds like a fire code violation. LOL. Blocking the door will just send them underground, into consultancies outside the public view selling advice to lobbyists and schmoozing. I think having them as registered lobbyists is preferable.

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