Ethics ruling


State Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio last week asked the Ethics Commission whether it would violate the law for him to sign a letter asking lobbyists to donate thousands of dollars to help cover the costs of a national meeting of legislative secretaries.

Ethics Commission Chairman Mark Hutchison … ruled that it would be within the law for Sen. Raggio to sign such letters seeking donations of up to $2,000, since Sen. Raggio would receive no personal benefit, but that requesting larger donations — up to $5,000, say — would be wrong.

“The commission is concerned that such a hierarchy of donations may encourage lobbyists to donate at the highest level to curry favor in the Legislature,” Mr. Hutchison wrote in the ruling. …

First, if all the Ethics Commission is going to do is tell lawmakers what’s legal, it’s not needed. Any skilled attorney can tell a lawmaker what the law says.

The Ethics Commission, if it’s needed at all, is needed to tell Sen. Raggio what’s ethical. You can enact a law to make anything legal … but it doesn’t make it right.

And the assertion that it’s OK for Sen. Raggio to use his official position to arm-twist some lobbyists — or, in real life, the government unions and regulated industries that hire them — into ponying up $2,000, but not $5,000, is hilarious.

If the legislative secretaries weren’t hoping Sen. Raggio’s name and title would get those lobbyists to cough up the dough, why do you suppose they didn’t ask Paris Hilton or the Dalai Lama to sign their letter? …

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