State Integrity Memo FINAL

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2323 E. Franklin Ave Minneapolis, MN 55406 612-605-7978 To: Editorial Writers From: Common Cause Minnesota RE: State Government is Crumbling from Disrepair Minnesota’s democratic institutions appear to be crumbling - figuratively and literally. A report earlier this year from the Capitol Preservation Commission found that the state capitol is literally crumbling apart after of years of neglect. Unfortunately, it is not the only institution that is showing its age from lack
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  2323 E. Franklin AveMinneapolis, MN To: Editorial WritersFrom: Common Cause MinnesotaRE: State Government is Crumbling from Disrepair Minnesota’s democratic institutions appear to be crumbling - figuratively and literally. A report earlier this year from the Capitol Preservation Commission found that the state capitol is literally crumblingapart after of years of neglect. Unfortunately, it is not the only institution that is showing its age fromlack of repair.A national study released last week awarded Minnesota a disappointing D+ for failing to keep our government open, honest and accountable to “we the people.” For decades, Minnesota has had thereputation for good government because there have been relatively few cases of government corruption.Sadly, while other states, like Illinois or Louisiana, have implemented reform legislation as a result of corruption scandals, Minnesota’s clean record has led to inaction in bringing about greater transparency,accountability and anti-corruption reforms in Minnesota. We have rested on our laurels and are now paying the price. What is wrong with Minnesota? The growing dysfunction in Minnesota stategovernment was epitomized by lastsummer’s 19 day government shut downwhen legislators and the governor locked the public out of the capitol while they workedout a budget deal. This lack of transparency was unprecedented in thestate history. In the end, legislators votedon over 1,104 pages of budget bills in a 24hour period. The legislation was movedthrough so quickly that many legislators didnot have time to read what was in the final bill. That became apparent after thegovernor’s office and House committeechair pointed fingers at each other over whoended the homestead tax credit. This process is unfortunately becoming all toocommon at the legislature and only further erodes public trust in state government.  2323 E. Franklin AveMinneapolis, MN That trust is even further eroded by the State Integrity report’s findings that Minnesota fails toadequately oversee and enforce rules for lobbyists, candidates and special interest groups. TheMinnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has been severely underfunded over the lastdecade, making it unable to adequately enforce the laws on the books and hold lobbyists and politiciansaccountable. The executive director of the board, Gary Goldsmith, recently said, there are complianceissues that we know of in the lobbyist program that we simply cannot review and enforce because wedon't have staff to do it. 1 Even if the state’s ethics rules were adequately enforced, there are still so many holes in them that itwould be difficult to hold lobbyists and politicians accountable. This is demonstrated by the fact thatlegislative candidates were be paid during the 2010 election by other campaigns to provide variousservices. Legislators should never be able to personally benefit from campaign funds, butMinnesota allows money to be funneled to candidates through other campaigns. In addition,Minnesota requires legislators to provide very little information on their own personal financial interests.This issue came up repeatedly during the 2010 governor’s race when candidates were asked to discloseclient lists or spousal income. This lack of adequate disclosure and effective oversight of legislators’conflicts of interest is why Minnesota received a D- for legislation accountability from the State IntegrityInvestigation.This 50 state study did a thorough analysis of state laws and practices that encourage open governmentand deter corruption. While past studies have focused on tallying the number of scandals and corruptiontrials in a state, this study focused on 330 corruption risk indicators. The full Minnesota report can beviewed here: We need government reform that fixes how the legislature operates This report highlights that Minnesota does need to reform the way that government operates.Unfortunately, this type of reform is not being talked about at the capitol these days. It should not besurprising that the majority party, no matter what party is in power, rarely wants to create laws that canmake it easier for people to hold them accountable. It is that inaction that has led to the current crisisfacing Minnesota.Minnesota has gone from a state that works, to a state that works for special interest groups. This reportshould be a wake-up call that Minnesota needs to reform government and do a better job of deterring public corruption. Some of those reforms should include: ã Require lobbyists to provide more details of who and what legislation they are attempting toinfluence. ã Require more timely disclose of all political campaign spending. ã Create a 72 hour waiting period before legislation can reach the floor of a chamber from 1   Schrade, Brad Star Tribune “Lobbyist disclosure goes unchecked, campaign finance regulator says” February 14, 2012   2323 E. Franklin AveMinneapolis, MN committee. ã Restore funding for Minnesota Political Contribution Refund Program.Legislators must spend time developing a reform agenda that will help build public trust in governmentand make the legislative process function better. The 2012 election season will illustrate how our democracy is being bought and sold as an unprecedented amount of secret political money flows into the ballot campaigns, legislative, congressional and the presidential race.Special interests will “invest” millions of dollars in the 2012 election to ensure that they get a candidatethat will do what they want. It is time to start asking: what these special interest hope to get in return for their political contributions? It’s hard to believe that they would invest that kind of money withoutexpecting something in return. It’s time we return to government of, by, and for the people, not government of, bought, and paidfor by special interests. The problem with our political system isn’t so much that individual politicians are corrupt but that thesystem is corrupt. Sure, there are bad apples in the barrel, but the real problem is that the barrel is rotten. No matter how honest you are, when your ability to get elected depends on collecting millions of dollarsfrom special interests, there’s no way you can be objective.Minnesota used to be a shining example of good government, but we've lost our way. We are acceptingmediocrity, we are accepting secrecy and, as a result, we are getting the government we deserve. Untilthe public begins to pressure the legislature and the governor for reform, we won’t see any change at thecapitol. It is no longer good enough to just “vote the bums out” like voters did in 2006 and 2010. If wewant the change we need, we must reform the way that government operates and makes decisions.Minnesota cannot deal with the severe challenges that the state faces until we reform how our leaders inall three branches of government operate. Minnesota needs to adopt a reform agenda that focuses on bringing more accountability and openness back to the state capitol.
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