Sunday, August 12, 2001

Politics


Lobbyist's career often costly

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        We all spend entirely too much time being dunned for money.

        There are bills, of course, for things we buy because we wanted to. But then there are the ceaseless telemarketing calls that want to treat us to an absolutely free weekend at Lake Chimichanga, provided we agree to be locked in a room with a real estate salesman for six hours.

        Open the mailbox and there are pleas from charities, magazines, credit card companies, all wanting your money.

        But most of us have it easy. We can say no and not worry about the consequences.

        Imagine, though, if you were a professional lobbyist, a person paid by some business or institution to represent its interests in places like the U.S. Congress, the Ohio General Assembly or city hall.

        If you were such a person, hardly a day would go by when you did not open your mail to find an invitation from a politician — Republicans and Democrats alike — asking you to pony up cash for a reception, a golf outing, a breakfast, a cruise on a riverboat — for the purpose of filling their campaign coffers.

        If you were that lobbyist and you wanted to do everything possible to help your client, you might be loathe to turn down too many of these requests, because the last thing you want, if you are a lobbyist, is to have a reputation as a cheapskate.

        One person who does lobbying here in Ohio recently shared with us a thick file folder of fund-raising solicitation letters he had received over the past couple of years.

        This year alone, through July, this particular lobbyist received no less than 69 invitations to political fund-raisers for a wide range of candidates, from state representatives to congressman to city council members.

        Golf outings, where the lobbyist can “sponsor” a hole on the golf course for anywhere from $200 to $2,000, are very popular this year.

        Chuck Blasdel, a state representative from East Liverpool who bills himself as the “Ohio House's Unofficial Cigar Aficionado,” had a smoke-a-thon June 6 at the Port Royal Tobacconist shop in Columbus. The price of admission: $150.

        State Rep. Tony Core of Bellefontaine, who held a $150-a-pop breakfast at a Columbus coffee house March 22, was kind enough to point out to the potential donors that Ohio law “allows up to a $50 tax credit for donations to a state legislative campaign,” a law that, we're guessing, sailed through the Ohio General Assembly to passage.

        The cost of living must be awful darn high in Columbus. State Rep. Diana Fessler of Tipp City charged $150 for bagels and coffee in May; State Rep. Tom Niehaus of New Richmond gave “cold beer and warm pizza” for the same fee.

        This particular lobbyist, of course, didn't respond to all 69 invites, but, if he had, and had given the minimum donation, he would have shelled out about $9,025.

        Bagels and pizza aren't the only expensive things in Columbus. So is the price of doing business.

       Howard Wilkinson covers politics. He can be reached at 768-8388 or via e-mail at hwilkinson@enquirer.com.

       



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