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Government bodies hiring lobbyists to get public funds bad policy

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2004

There is something unsettling about government entities using the public's money to hire lobbyists to wrangle even more of the public's money from government entities. To the average person, it looks something like feeding time at the trough.

Understandably, the appeal of having a lobbyist to look out for your interests and persuade lawmakers to fund your project must be alluring. Many cities and school boards have succumbed to the temptation, some even boasting of more than one.

The state may get one more.

The Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority is among the latest to be dazzled by the concept. It reportedly plans to hire a lobbyist at an as-yet unspecified salary to help it get at least $2 million more from the state Legislature to carry it through June 30.

In June, the authority is slated to brief the Legislature on the project so a decision can be reached on whether to proceed with the next phase, which could involve ordering pipe, arranging financing, obtaining permits and negotiating contracts, the Associated Press reported. That phase could amount to at least $200 million in expenditures.

''We somehow need, from June to about 18 months later, need to figure out how to get and how to spend a couple hundred million dollars,'' Harold Heinze, the authority's chief executive officer, was quoted as saying.

The authority, created by voters, would build, own and operate a $12 billion project that would move North Slope natural gas to Valdez where it would be liquified and shipped elsewhere for sale, the AP reported. The Legislature at first granted the authority $150,000 but then added $200,000 more for this fiscal year.

Heinze said the gas project would be competing for other state funding, and a lobbyist would help the authority do its work.

He has a good point, but it leaves many wondering why government bodies should be paying someone to get them even more money in the first place.

Why cannot those on the authority do what talking is needed?

Government's hiring of lobbyists to pry money out of government is a questionable practice that never should have been allowed in the first place, but now it is an accomplished fact.

Too bad. It does little to bolster public confidence in government and makes the average person just scratch his head.

The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times

Jan. 9



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