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Campaign Finance Reform

Overview

Just as corporate lobbying corrupts the legislative process, the scramble for government contracts corrupts the executive branch and its agencies.  Ohio has seen multiple pay-to-play scandals in recent years where campaign contributors illicitly received unbid special counsel work from the attorney general's office, no-bid contracts from the secretary of state's office, and control of workers’ compensation investments in the notorious Coingate scandal.  Similar scandals have enveloped public officials in New York, California, South Carolina, Illinois and other states across the country.

A number of states have taken action to assure greater accountability in the public contracting system through common-sense solutions:

Campaign Contributions by Contractors:  Seven states currently have some form of pay-to-play contracting law to bar companies bidding on contracts from making campaign contributions to government officials, and in 2005, New Jersey passed the nation’s most far-reaching pay-to-play law in the wake of local contracting scandals.

Tightening Contracting Standards:  The tighter the standards for the bidding processes and the work done, the less likely incompetent or corrupt companies can buy contracts with campaign contributions.   

Public Citizen — Pay to Play and State Governments
Public Citizen — State Pay to Play Laws
AFSCME — Legislative Approaches to Responsible Contracting
New Jersey Pay to Play Law

Overview

As an alternative to raising large sums of campaign cash to fund increasingly expensive campaigns, states can create a publicly-funded clean elections system for candidates who choose to forgo private donations. Strong arguments are available to progressives pursuing this reform. Publicly-funded elections free elected officials from the constant need to fundraise, and allow them to focus on public service, while reducing the ability of private donors to buy influence with officeholders.  Public financing also encourages new people without independent wealth to pursue elected office, increases competition by reducing the disparity in spending between candidates, and reduces the cost of campaigns as candidates accept voluntary spending limits.

Overview

In Georgia, former Democratic Leader Pete Robinson and former Republican Leader Arthur Edge IV became pharmaceutical lobbyists after leaving office.  More broadly, a third of federal lobbyists hired by the drug companies are former government officials and pharma's state lobbying army includes dozens of former state lawmakers.

Imposing a two-year moratorium before former legislators or other government officials can become lobbyists prevents them from immediately leveraging their relationships with government decision makers into lucrative careers influencing their former colleagues.  It also helps ensure that those serving in government are truly interested in public service and not just cashing in on the connections they make.  Six states have imposed a two-year moratorium before former legislators can become lobbyists, while twenty states have imposed a one-year moratorium.