Saturday, February 16, 2008

They Just Don't Get It

The special session on ethics has passed some bills. That's about the best you can say for them, they have passed some bills; watered down, key provisions cut out and escape clauses added. For instance, a legislator can't contract with the state starting now. If he already has a contract with the state, it can continue until 2012.

However, and it's a big however, a provision was added that will allow these contracts to continue if the legislator is not actively involved in the management of the company and is just a passive investor. As Bill Engvall says, here's your sign. Announce that you are not 'actively' involved in your company and you can do business with the state. The governor's website says that there will be 'no loopholes'. Sure looks like a loophole to me.

There are other compromises, and more to come, but that is not the main point of this post. The point is that it is still business as usual.

The Jindal campaign failed to file a disclosure form with the "Ethics" Board and probably will face a fine. A hearing is set for July. The Governor, however, immediately announced that the campaign would go ahead and pay a $2,500 fine. That's okay, except for two little details. You can't just sweep it under the rug by paying a fine, a hearing must be held and responsibility assigned. Initially, the administration blamed Timmy Teepell, now it's an 'undisclosed' employee of the campaign.
Second, in the governor's proposals for new legislation, he made it clear that fines must be paid by the individual responsible (in this case, Jindal), and not paid with campaign funds. No, it's not illegal at this point, but it looks bad. It is in the perception of what is happening. As Jindal told the Boston Globe, it is really more about perception than reality.
While we would like to see the reality of ethics, these clowns are not even giving the perception. They just don't get it.
This week it came out, after the legislature outlawed free tickets for sporting and cultural events for its members and other public officials, that Timmy Teepell and four members of the legislature had just received free 'Hannah Montana' tickets. The four legislators are Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, Senator John Alario, Representative Jeff Arnold, and Representative Austin Badon.
"Helping my granddaughters was an honorable thing for him to do," Sen. John Alario says. Senator Alario says he gave the Hannah Montana tickets to his granddaughters. "I didn't know who Hannah Montana was. I probably don't know her more than North Dakota. The request came from my granddaughters and certainly, I would honor their request," he says.
Senator Alario, I'm sure you're a good grandfather. Buy your tickets just as everyone else has to do – that would be much more ‘honorable’ than using your position to take advantage of freebies. That is what the legislation that you just passed was all about - making such things illegal and removing the perception that it is wrong. Call Ticketmaster next time.
It's all about perception, and they just don't get it. They probably never will.

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