In the article, Revolving Door Prohibitions, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports:
"Revolving door" is a phrase that describes the practice of legislators leaving public service and heading immediately for lobbying positions. Ethics laws in all but nine states limit this practice by setting mandatory waiting periods before a legislator may register as a lobbyist or engage in lobbying activites.
Among the states that provide for cooling-off periods for former legislators, 26 require a one-year gap between legislating and lobbying. Ten states, plus the Minnesota House, set the waiting period to two years [see next paragraph]. Two states provide for limits between zero and 12 months. Michigan prohibits legislators from lobbying for the remainder of the term that they would have served if they had not vacated office.
In fact, the Minnesota House language isn't statutory, the NCSL page states:
No statutory restriction on revolving doors in Minnesota statutes. The House prohibits former state legislators from registering as lobbyists within 1 year from the date they leave office. House Rule 9.35. The Senate and Joint Rules do not appear to have a similar prohibition.
The rule isn't enforced, and this lax attitude illustrates the culture of casual corruption at the Minnesota state capitol. The most recent example? Wednesday's announcement by Minnesota House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, that she will resign her House seat in July to become director of government affairs and general counsel for the Minnesota Rural Electric Association.
A lobbyist. For an association of electric co-ops.
President Donald Trump campaigned on "draining the swamp"--and his pre-election spiel included promises to slow down the revolving door on the federal level, according to an April 2017 article at NPR:
But Trump had a plan. Trump promised to impose stronger "revolving door" rules, which basically say an official cannot leave government and then start lobbying his or her former colleagues. He did what he said he would do: Set a five-year revolving-door ban for his appointees; it's in an executive order on ethics he issued in January.
He also said he would ask Congress for a five-year lobbying ban on senators, representatives and top staffers. (They currently face one- or two-year bans under separate House and Senate rules.)
If the president hasn't managed to affect this change, it was the winning vision before he took the oath of office. One could be forgiven for entertaining the fantasy that the conservative Peppin might adhere to that vision in the state-level , but perhaps all purity faded when her husband spotted the job announcement, as the Star Tribune Jessie Van Berkel reports.
Van Berkel's article doesn't mention the revolving door. At the Pioneer Press, Bill Salisbury reports in Minn. House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin stepping down to become lobbyist:
Between 2007 and 2017, the MREA spent nearly $1.5 million in lobbying in Minnesota, according to figures from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.
In Minnesota, there is no prohibition against a lawmaker leaving a job at the Capitol and immediately becoming a lobbyist.
Rules are for chumps.
As Bluestem noted, the rule isn't enforced. We last wrote about this quirk in late 2015 in Who is served by the lobbying? Clients of Ann Lenczewski's new government relations team, when the Bloomington Democrat resigned to become a lobbyist. Salisbury and David Montgomery reported in DFL Rep. Ann Lenczewski retires to join lobbying firm :
Lenczewski will join at least five dozen former legislators of both parties since 2002 to become a lobbyist after leaving office.
The Minnesota House has a rule requiring members to wait one year after leaving office before becoming lobbyists, but it’s unenforceable and routinely ignored. Lenczewski will herself ignore it, saying she plans on registering as a lobbyist soon after starting at LGN.
St. Cloud Times columnist Barbara Banaian wrote in Legislature needs better ethics rules:
Minnesota was recently given a D-minus grade from the Center for Public Integrity — and an F in ethics enforcement.
The F springs in part from lax oversight of legislators turning lobbyists, the "Revolving Door" laws.
The most recent case involves Rep. Ann Lenczewski. She has been a member of the Legislature for 16 years and chaired the House Taxes Committee from 2013 to 2014. She is resigning in December to take a position with the lobbying firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen.
But this is a bipartisan problem. While Lenczewski is a DFLer, former Rep. Jim Abeler, served as a GOP House member from Anoka for 16 years, only to become a lobbyist a few weeks after resignation. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, since 2002, 60 former representatives have taken lobbying positions.
A lobbyist is a person who is paid to influence legislators — encouraging them to introduce and vote for measures the lobbyist represents. They are private citizens influencing legislators in certain ways. They can provide information about bills the legislator will hear and vote on, and then try to encourage them to vote in a way that helps the lobbyist’s client. They may also give campaign donations.
Lobbyist positions can be very lucrative. And a lobbyist who is on a first-name basis with many in the Legislature is able to command a good salary. To reduce that temptation many states bar legislators from moving into lobbying. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 33 states with a “cooling off” period between leaving the Legislature and becoming a lobbyist. In eight, the restriction is for two years. . . .
The Rochester Bulletin's Heather Carlson reported in Slowing the revolving door that the need for ethics reform had made for an unusual pair:
A Rochester lawmaker is backing a bill requiring a "cooling-off period" before former lawmakers can begin lobbying lawmakers again.
Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, is sponsoring a measure that would bar former lawmakers and high-ranking legislative staff from lobbying legislators for a year. The Minnesota House already has a similar rule on the books for lawmakers, but that rule is routinely ignored.
"I was told, 'Well, the ban only applies to sitting legislators.' Kind of a Catch-22 there," she said.
Liebling said her biggest concern is that a legislator who is tasked with working in the public interest could be offered a high-paying lobbying job by powerful interests and take it. In fact, she has personally refused to meet with lawmakers who have gone straight from their House seats to lobbying.
"I just think there should be a cooling-off period, and I think the public has a right to expect that," Liebling said.
And the liberal Rochester lawmaker has support from an unlikely political ally. Conservative Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, is a co-sponsor of the bill. He agrees with Liebling that lawmakers shouldn't be able to leave the Legislature and then immediately begin lobbying former colleagues. He is particularly concerned about lawmakers who resign their seats specifically to take a lobbying job.
"That's really shaky ground ethically for people who made that commitment to their constituents to serve and their constituents placed their faith in them," Drazkowski said. . . .
That was then, this is now. Peppin's departure has drawn little mention of the revolving door in the press. Perhaps we'll find some as we read more.
Image: What is this thing called "ethics" and what does it have to do with the Minnesota House?
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