Rural Wrap

Secret Use of Tax Dollars to Lobby for Tax Increases

By Dan Steninger

ell, well, well. All the biennial hoopla over how "good government" activists are working to reduce the influence of lobbyists on our lawmakers failed to mention that all the reforms being implemented do not apply to those lobbyists working on behalf of the state.

News reports coming out of Las Vegas tell us state lawmakers have been the recipients of free tickets to rock concerts, UNLV basketball games, boxing matches and rodeo performances, as well as cigars and gift baskets, all courtesy of the University of Nevada System, aka the taxpayers of the State of Nevada.

It seems that if anyone should have to record the gifts they give to legislators, it ought to be lobbyists working for the state. Let’s call them double-dipping (at least) lobbyists. The state taxes us to raise money to hire these lobbyists, who then use more tax money to shower legislators with gifts in hopes that the legislators will raise our taxes even more.

And after all that work, the lobbyists and their bosses give themselves nice raises for a job well done. What a swell deal for taxpayers.

The lobbyists earn more than double the average salary of the poor schmucks being taxed to support them; the legislators get free concert, basketball and rodeo tickets; the agencies hiring the lobbyists get bigger budgets; and all of this gets paid for by the taxpayer. This, in government-speak, is what is called a win-win-win situation.

In honest English, it’s corruption. Another case of the rulers living outside the rules they make for the rest of us. Lobbyists not working for the state have to fill out a report when they buy a legislator a few drinks, but not so for those lobbyists bellied up to the public trough.

For instance, if Joe Taxpayer attempted to lower his taxes by traveling to Carson City and handing out gift baskets, fancy cigars, concert tickets, etc., to legislators, and succeeded in keeping his gifts secret, a crime would have been committed. But when a university official decides Joe’s taxes should be raised because the official has "identified a

need" for Joe’s money, he or she can do all those things and not be arrested.

Well, there is one difference. Joe was spending his own money. On second thought, the university official was spending Joe’s money, too!

And don’t think legislators think it’s all above board. Under lobbying rules passed by those legislators, no one ever would know about this buying and selling of influence. The free tickets passed out to legislators by lobbyists for the state university system came to light not from those vaunted lobbying reform rules, but from discrepancies in university records noticed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Quoted in the Associated Press article on this scandal was Nevada Sen. Jon Porter of Boulder City. Of university lobbyists, he said: "I think they ought to be registered." That’s a start. We can use that registration list to track these people down, force them to report which legislators received their "gifts," and charge the whole bunch with conspiracy and racketeering.

Maybe with a few prosecutions we would quit having to read stories such as the ones recently in the news reporting that "University System Chancellor Richard Jarvis’ annual salary jumped $14,000 to $195,000 on Thursday with final approval of the pay increase by the Board of Regents. Regent Maddy Graves, who made the motion to increase Jarvis’ pay retroactive to July 1, said he would like to give him even more.

‘I wish we could pay you a lot more, Richard, because you certainly deserve it.’ "

We’re sure that was an accurate quote, but we’re also sure a more accurate statement by Graves would have read: "I wish we could pay you a lot more, Richard, because, hey, it’s not coming out of our pockets."

Maybe with a few prosecutions, that $195,000-a-year chancellor could do his own lobbying. u

Dan Steninger is the Editorial Page Editor for the Elko Daily Free Press.


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