The head honcho of the House, newly installed Speaker David Ralston (R-BlueRidge), ate his way through $1,225 in meals and refreshments paid for by lobbyists in January alone — an average of $40 per day. That compares to a measly $597 spending by lobbyists on Ralston in January 2009 when he was just another North Georgia legislator.
Ralston’s lame explanation was that all the lobbyist-paid eating and drinking “was due to renewing a lot of acquaintances and people who wanted to visit and get to know me that I had not gotten to work with in the past.”
Hold it. Just whom does the Speaker think he is fooling? The one job of lobbyists is to influence legislation. Period. They are not paid to make friends of House speakers and other legislators just to be friends. Their objective is to influence bills that the Speaker has great control over and the legislators vote on. Period.
It is a truism of human nature that when someone does another person a favor or a good turn — pays for dinner at a nice restaurant, for example — there is a sense of obligation created whether or not it is acknowledged. That is the very basis for the lobbyists paying for the meals and refreshments.
If lobbyists want to visit and get to know the Speaker, why not make an appointment and sit down in his office and check him out over a Coke or a cup of coffee and vice versa?
An even better question: If Ralston is interested in genuine lobbyist reform, why doesn’t he stop feeding at the lobbyists’ trough?