Time To Separate PACS From Lobbying

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How is it possible to separate organizations’ campaign contributions from their lobbying activities? It may not ever be possible. Political Action Committee is a term for a political committee organized for the purpose of raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates. Numerous groups that have a PAC do not have a lobbyist, and many groups that have a lobbyist do not have a PAC. Perhaps it should be an either/or option and get the political donations completely out of policy issues. 

The prevailing opinion is that campaign contributions are integral to lobbying efforts and buying access to elected officials. Have we really sunk to that level in America? Nashville? Lobbying and contributing to political candidates should be completely unrelated activities. Perhaps the state comptroller should investigate the relationship between PAC donations to specific legislators and the amount of time their lobbyists spent with those legislators. It should reveal interesting findings. It should also be clear how much lobbying effort was directed at the legislative branch and how much was directed at the executive branch, and those political donations as well. This would be the only way to measure the extent to which contributions really affect the way that policymakers allocate their time, and whether money as a political resource magnifies and perpetuates political inequalities. 

Even though it is an ugly secret, there is little doubt that some organizations obtain votes by making campaign contributions. Thus, lobbying strategies become dependent upon campaign donation strategies. What transpires in the meetings between legislators and interest groups with PACs can be a matter of inference and speculation. However, what is not supposition is that legislation favored by those who contribute political donations succeed on a regular basis. Many politicians also form PACs as a way of raising money to help fund other candidates' campaigns. A common occurrence is money gets funneled to Candidate A via Candidate B, by other special interests or PACS through this method. Follow the money. 

In reality, groups that command non-monetary resources valued by policymakers —policy expertise, access to voters, and influence may be more important than a campaign check. As labor unions have seen their influence decline, they could likely discover it to the fact they are spending less on lobbying, and more on political giving. There are smaller victories, and they are having to write bigger checks to secure even those. It will only escalate and union dues will increase. The lesson here is obvious. 

Clearly, we believe issue advocacy is good, and it is a First Amendment right to express an opinion to policymakers. We also have no problem with people making political contributions to the candidates of their choice. What we would like to see is a clearer separation between these two activities, with better monitoring. Are political campaigns on behalf of candidates engaging in illegally coordinated activities with PACS? Nobody can be certain. Should PACs be forced to immediately disclose their donors and campaign expenditures? Should people who have PACS be required to register to lobby? It is essential that citizens know who is financing policymakers’ elections.

Professional Educators of Tennessee will continue to lobby for public education. However, we will never endorse political parties or candidates as an organization on behalf of our members. We also do not have a PAC, nor do we plan to ever start one. It would harm our effectiveness. We must advance public education without the divisive tribalism of partisan politics, and we will only get involved in education related issues.

J.C. Bowman
Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee


Vote For Joda For State Representative District 30

Why Allow New Apartments In An Overcrowded School Zone?

Roy Exum: Who Do You Trust?


As a lifelong educator, I have been privileged to meet many talented graduates who have taken their place in leadership of our community. These former Mocs have received strong educational experiences ... (click for more)

I have to ask why the city of Chattanooga chose to put a 60/40 HUD backed apartment complex on Highway 58 across from Lynda’s Produce in a three school zone that is already overloaded. The ... (click for more)

About this time last month a 25-year-old kid with a fresh degree in “public policy” left me a phone call hoping to get my views. Joda Thongnopnua is the Democratic candidate for the State House ... (click for more)


Opinion

Vote For Joda For State Representative District 30

As a lifelong educator, I have been privileged to meet many talented graduates who have taken their place in leadership of our community. These former Mocs have received strong educational experiences and are now in careers that will lead in business, education, and many other fields for the betterment of Hamilton County and the state of Tennessee. One of those talented people is ... (click for more)

Why Allow New Apartments In An Overcrowded School Zone?

I have to ask why the city of Chattanooga chose to put a 60/40 HUD backed apartment complex on Highway 58 across from Lynda’s Produce in a three school zone that is already overloaded. The three schools, Central, Brown and Harrison Elementary, are all overloaded and on a morning run all the lanes of 58 are packed with traffic. Now I can only guess what that might add to the mix. ... (click for more)

Breaking News

WWTA Releases Timetable That Would Have Ooltewah Sewage Treatment Plant In Operation By 2025; Public Meetings Set At Central High

The Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority has released a timetable that would have a new sewage treatment plant in Ooltewah in operation by 2025. A request for a site at Mahan Gap Road goes before the Planning Commission at Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. It goes to the County Commission Zoning Committee on Dec. 12 and the full commission on Dec. 19. The WWTA also ... (click for more)

Downtown Post Office Finally Getting Handicap Ramp

Chattanooga's Downtown Post Office, after some lawsuits and numerous complaints over the years, is finally getting a handicap ramp. Federal Judge Sandy Mattice said the complaints had increased in recent months and the General Services Administration agreed to fund the project at the historic building on Georgia Avenue. The judge said, "It's a beautiful building, but it's ... (click for more)

Sports

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Opens Ticket Deposits

Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club opened ticket deposits on Monday for its inaugural 2019 season of professional play in USL League One. Deposits ensure soccer fans get to pick their preferred seats early for group, season and individual tickets. By placing a deposit, fans will also have access to priority seating for the new soccer-specific stadium being built for the 2020 season. ... (click for more)

Baylor, GPS, CCS Advance To State Soccer Semifinals

Baylor traveled to Briarcrest in Memphis on Saturday to compete for a Division II-AA final four spot. After play to a 0-0 tie in the first half, Baylor would find itself down 1-0 in the 63rd minute when Anna Strong scored off a corner kick. That lead did not last long as Ara Rhodes scored the game tying goal one minute later off an Avery David corner kick. Two minutes later, ... (click for more)