Close the Revolving Door

Texas Again Demonstrates the Pitfalls of Privatization

This past week, the Dallas Morning News revealed that a key figure who contributed to the privatization of Texas' food stamp eligibility program is now receiving taxpayer dollars to help fix the problems that the private system created.  regg Phillips, who was Deputy Commissioner at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and led the push for privatization a few years ago, now heads AutoGov Inc., a company that has received $207,500 from the state government in the past four months to assist in eliminating the errors in the provision and eligibility determination of the state's food stamp program.

Close the Revolving Door on Legislators-Turned-Lobbyists

While the shenanigans of former U.S. Representative-turned-pharmaceutical lobbyist Billy Tauzin and other legislators-turned-lobbyists make national headlines, the abuse of power in the states often receive scant attention.  A recent decision by the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio reminds us that the revolving door among legislators-turned-lobbyists is as much a problem in the states as we hear about at the federal level.


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.

Two States With Tarnished Images Make Strong Gains on Ethics in 2008

Many states have suffered from public officials being involved in ethics scandals.  While sometimes there is talk of reform and other overtures, comprehensive reform is most often elusive.  However, some states have managed, either in response to one particularly egregious event or a history of problems being overturned in a wave of dissatisfaction, to truly make a fundamental change.  This year Connecticut once again moved forward with a multi-year ethics reform initiative, and Louisiana enacted one of the most far-reaching ethics overhauls any state has in generations.

Cleaning Up Corruption in the Statehouses

At the core of many voters' frustrations with government is the sense that, too often, politics is for sale. High-priced lobbyists offering "gifts" to lawmakers swarm state legislatures; companies looking for public contracts get too cozy with those handing out public money; and corporate campaign contributions grease the wheels as public policy is auctioned to the highest corporate bidder.