It's wrong for lobbyists to also be politicians Influence peddling: General Assembly ought to prevent dual roles, such as those in Prince George's.

September 24, 1998

LOBBYISTS have found a new way to gain special leverage with those who make state laws: Become elected officials within the state's Democratic Party. Now three high-paid advocates have instant entree to Democratic senators and delegates. They are not only lobbyists, but politicians, too.

Gary R. Alexander, Joel D. Rozner and John P. McDonough, all well-connected lobbyists, ran for and won seats on the Prince George's County Democratic State Central Committee. They did at the behest of powerful state senators. That puts them in good stead when it comes time to promote bills from their clients before these very same senators.

It is a classic case of blending two professions that must remain separate and apart. That is why the legislature -- under strong public pressure -- outlawed the practice of lobbyists serving as fund-raisers for candidates.

The practice is unseemly, unethical and cries out for strong action by the General Assembly. The Cardin commission to revise legislative ethics is recommending that the entire issue of regulating lobbyists be studied by another panel. That is a good suggestion but does not go far enough.

The General Assembly must act to build a firmer wall insulating lawmakers from those who lobby on behalf of private clients before the legislature. If an individual wants to be a paid advocate in Annapolis, there should be no crossover into the political domain of either party. It corrupts the system and reinforces the impression that legislators have formed an unholy alliance with lobbyists.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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