A bill working its way through the Iowa legislature would forbid lobbyists from making campaign contributions to statehouse politicians. Critics argue there’s a direct link between campaign contributions and action — or inaction — on particular issues in the legislature. But Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale who is on the House Ethics Committee, says new technology helps ordinary Iowans have more influence at the statehouse.
"It’s really about access," Raecker says. "…I would say that a general public citizen actually has more immediate access to me than even a lobbyist in the rotunda (because) I have got my laptop computer with me at every meeting on my desk and when a constituent sends me an e-mail on an issue, it’s immediate information to me on how they feel." If an outright ban on lobbyist contributions to Iowa lawmakers can’t pass the legislature, Raecker suggests there should at least be some limits on what lobbyists can contribute.
"It’s one of the things that both (political) parties actually have proponents of is to look at caps on campaign contributions," Raecker says. "It’s a sensitive issue, obviously." Opponents of the move say it violates free speech rights to set limits on how much money individuals may donate to a cause or a politician.
Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board executive director Charlie Smithson says Iowa is one of only a handful of states which has no limit on lobbyist and political action committee contributions to state candidates.
"You can get a million dollar check from lobbyist, from a PAC," Smithson says. "That’s something that probably needs to be explored — the amount of money that’s coming into campaigns." Smithson and Raecker made their comments on "The Iowa Journal" on I-P-T-V this past week.