In my day job as a lobbyist I encourage my clients to cultivate positive and productive relationships with their own legislators and the Governor’s office in the hopes that when they call and ask their Rep or Senator to get a bill dislodged from Ways and Means or call a Governor to appoint a certain consumer advocate to the Department of Public Utilities, they will pay attention.
How do they cultivate positive and productive relationships? By supporting their candidacy for office with cash contributions and participation in GOTV election day activities, and/or just being a good advocate — presenting good information about current issues.
All of this activity, some call it civic engagement, some call it politics, helps a lot. So does being related and growing up in the same neighborhood, graduating from the same high school and going to the same temple. It all matters, but in the end they listen to anybody. They see it as their job.
Rep Will Brownsberger from Belmont and Rep Marty Walsh from Dorchester are two very different human beings who don’t look alike, but boy, do they think alike about one “duty” of an elected legislator. First Rep. Walsh…
In the Dorchester Reporter,
Walsh said…………that lawmakers frequently write letters of recommendation for individuals. “My job is to try to help people,” Walsh said, adding that his office frequently gets calls from people looking for help with housing and jobs.
“I would not write a letter or make a phone call if a person wasn’t qualified,” he said. “There clearly were abuses in that office,” Walsh said of the Probation Department, adding that some in the state House of Representatives took advantage of the situation.
In a guest commentary in Wicked Local Rep Will Brownsberger of Belmont asks the essential question – “.. how we set appropriate boundaries for legislative contacts with agencies”. And he comes up with a specific suggestion.
The report offers strongly suggestive evidence that, in some instances, legislators solicited campaign contributions from probation officers in return for help. These instances deserve further attention from prosecutors. But, in some instances, legislators may have simply attempted to serve constituents.
That's the deep problem — it is, in fact, an important role of legislators to help their constituents fight through state and private bureaucracy to obtain fair treatment — sidewalk repairs, storm drain clean up, health care benefits, housing, employment. Sometimes there is a very thin line between fair treatment and unwarranted privilege. In the case of the probation department, it is clear that line was crossed routinely.
While, the systematic fraud that occurred in probation is probably unusual, inappropriate patronage is undoubtedly more widespread. The question of how we set appropriate boundaries for legislative contacts with agencies deserves sustained attention. I would support, for example, a house rule that all legislative contacts with agencies regarding employment be in writing and filed with the house or senate clerk.
Cross posted (as soon as I figure it out) at ONE Massachusetts.