The following is a press release made by the State House Minority Caucus (aka Republicans):
NJ Story Highlights Need for Reforms
By State Reps. Greg Lavelle and Gerald Hocker
The recent News Journal article “How Chris Tigani seduced the Delaware Legislature,” did a good job of delineating how Mr. Tigani engaged in a series of activities in an apparent attempt to curry favor with some members of the General Assembly. Most of these activities were legal, while some were allegedly illicit. (Mr. Tigani currently faces federal charges for violating campaign finance and tax laws.)
However, the story overreaches when it strongly implies that these activities resulted in “every piece of legislation in the last decade,” in which Mr. Tigani had an interest, being decided in his favor.
In citing seven specific bills related to the beer and liquor industry, the article makes no provision that people often favor the same action on legislation for very different reasons. For instance, many of the legislators that voted against increasing alcoholic beverage taxes or fees have a long history of consistently opposing tax and fee hikes of any type. On another of the bills mentioned on the story – a measure to allow the sale of beer in supermarkets – many lawmakers indicated they opposed it on moral grounds or because they did not want to expand alcohol sales.
The article does an effective job at emphasizing that Delaware’s laws regarding the interaction of lobbyists and legislators are outdated and lacking. We agree.
Both of us have a long history of sponsoring “good government” reforms to improve accountability and transparency. One such bill, introduced in 2006, might have made an impact on this story had it been enacted. House Bill 427 sought to require that public officers and lobbyists report any gift of $50 or more, fixing a current discrepancy in the system. That bill died without being released from the House Administration Committee.
Less than two months ago, we also announced plans to introduce legislation in January creating an independent government watchdog agency – the Office of the Inspector General – who would be empowered to ensure government officials, and people dealing with the government, abide by the law.
We are ready to join with our colleagues in the House and Senate of both parties, as well as any interested citizen groups, to undertake a comprehensive review of legislative and lobbying disclosure laws. There are numerous reforms, like House Bill 427, that can be quickly reviewed and re-introduced. We are confident such a group could also craft other improvements needed to strengthen public confidence in our government.
As legislators, we often look at the actions of behaviors of private industry and governmental agencies and work with interested parties for ways to improve. We should not hesitate to do that for ourselves.
Of course, we all know that the corruption that is Dover goes deeper than Tigani, and this blog has been active in pointing out the influence-purchasing at the Gubernatorial level by the Stoltz organization and other “Friends of Jack” (here & here are two examples). Or the initial actions of Senate Pro Tem Tony DeLuca (here which is now rumored to be called the “Tunnel of Love”). Or even the overall depths to which Delaware has fallen compared to other States “in December 2008 Delaware ranked by members of the media as the 4th most corrupt state.”
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We’ve got it good in Delaware.