By Roy J. Wells
The First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to petition the Government thus setting a very low bar you have to have a pulse to qualify as a lobbyist under the Constitution of the United States.Roy J. Wells
So it should come as no surprise that, eventually, some prosecutor somewhere would tape a wire to some miscreant s chest and send him out to tempt elected officials with envelopes of cash. And, as anyone who has watched the man in the street videos on Jimmy Kimmel can attest, someone will most likely take the envelope.
With the controversy surrounding the recent sting operation against members of the General Assembly, one unfortunate side effect has been that once again the lobbying profession has been further tarnished.
Only this time, it was a fake lobbyist under the direction of law enforcement who did the tarnishing, which is patently unfair to the hundreds of professionals who work in our industry in Pennsylvania every day. Let us not forget that this fake lobbyist was an accused felon who had been charged with 2,088 counts of forgery, conspiracy, theft, and related offenses.
It is not my or my firm s place to dictate policy to the General Assembly.
While we applaud the House Leadership for recently banning cash gifts, whatever new or enhanced rules they decide are necessary will only cause us to do what we have always done: comply, report, and be completely transparent in all of our dealings with elected officials.
While many people have a real misconception about what we do on a daily basis, one thing that should be abundantly clear, but is not often reported, is that governmental relations firms are some of the most heavily-regulated businesses in the state.
Everything we do on behalf of our clients must be transparent. We register, we report, we notify lawmakers if a gift they have received from one of our clients has reached a reporting threshold, and all of our PAC contributions are reported (and made public) down to the last penny.
So yes, it angers me that our profession is once again being dragged through the mud because of the publicity over a fake lobbyist doing something that is completely outrageous, illegal, and something no lobbyist or lobbying firm I know anywhere in this state would ever do, or even attempt to do.
A professional lobbyist doesn t just worry about one issue and one issue only. Likely, he or she is tracking the legislative process on six, eight or a dozen or more topics for one employer or for a number of clients. You can t serve that many masters unless you conduct yourself at a high ethical level. It s necessary to protect all of your clients. It s necessary to protect a wide range of personal relationships. It s necessary for you to learn to lose gracefully today if you expect to come back tomorrow for the same client or for another.
In other words, a good lobbyist is an honest and ethical one. An honest and ethical lobbyist is a successful one.
Roy J. Wells is President and Managing Director of Triad Strategies, a Harrisburg-based lobbying firm.
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