Sunday, November 18, 2007

Who really holds the power in TN-Lobbyists!!

An extraordinarily insightful investigative piece by Jessica Fender about who really wields the POWER at the Tennessee General Assembly.  When a bureaucrat wants to protect their turf and their job and their power they don't go to legislators, that would be silly and counter productive. They go to the lobbyists to get things done.


A couple years ago, the state's top alcohol regulator was in a tough spot. A proposed bill in the legislature would have clipped one of her agency's key duties, regulating liquor and wine commercials.

But Alcoholic Beverage Commission Director Danielle Elks didn't turn for help to her local representative, or even the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville. She handled it with the state's restaurant lobby.

In a May 2005 letter, she proposed dropping enforcement of certain rules if the lobby would withdraw the bill. Six days later, Haynes dropped the bill, which was written in the first place by a restaurant lobbyist.

The deal between regulator and regulated — the second uncovered at the commission in two weeks — offers a glimpse of the give-and-take involved in policing a highly influential industry.

And it shows a Capitol culture that puts legislative pens and power in the hands of lobbyists, who outnumber lawmakers' staffs more than two to one.