WISCONSINREPORT.COM (04/21/2009) - Legislation introduced today by State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) and Representative Spencer Black (D-Madison) would create stiff penalties for Wisconsin lawmakers who take jobs with special interests after leaving office. The bill seeks to close the so-called Revolving Door between government and special interests, which critics have decried as a major factor in government corruption.
"To restore faith in the integrity of government, itís important for people to know that their legislators are serving nobodyís interests except the publicís," Senator Julie Lassa said.
"This legislation is an important step toward rebuilding Wisconsinís reputation for clean, honest government,Ē Lassa added.
"Itís time to shut the revolving door. It is wrong to have a person who is a legislator one day come back the next to lobby his or her former colleagues on behalf of a special interest," Representative Spencer Black said.
"Current state law places a one-year waiting period on most former state officials who wish to become lobbyists. The law, however, exempts legislators. It shouldn't give legislators a special break," Black continued.
The bill prohibits any legislator from accepting a job as a lobbyist for 12 months after leaving office.
Any position that involves communicating with the legislature or a regulatory body five or more days in any six month period for the purpose of influencing laws or regulations would be off limits.
The bill establishes fines of up to $5,000 per offense and up to one year imprisonment.
The Revolving Door bill also has the support of Wisconsinís Government Accountability Board.
In a statement to the Board, Jonathan Becker, Administrator of the Boardís Ethics and Accountability Division, said: "A legislator who knows that he or she will not accept employment from an organization that lobbies the legislature frees a legislator to act in the interests he or she thinks best without thought of how his or her action will affect employment by an organization trying to influence the legislatorís vote."
"Wisconsin was once known as the clean government state. This bill would help us reclaim our once proud Wisconsin reputation for good government,Ē Black said.
"Last November, the voters made it very clear that theyíre concerned about the influence special interests have on their government, and they want something done about it," Lassa pointed out
"I hope my colleagues from both parties will answer that call and support this important provision," Senator Lassa said.