By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
But I also have seriously icky feelings about the constitutionality of it. I have always taken pride in telling rural county clerks that my identity is none of their damn business when I'm asking to see county records. About the time you start making people sign sworn documents every time they petition their government, I think you may be wearing out the right of petition.
Then there's the kind of lobbyists who are most closely associated with Leppert such as Carol Reed, who runs all of his political campaigns and serves as his ongoing political consultant and fund-raiser. Reed, as we learned in the corruption trial, also goes to City Hall to represent commercial clients on issues before the city council.
Reed doesn't have to call anybody halfway down a totem pole in any city department. I wager she doesn't know people halfway down totem poles. Her report sheet on contacts with city officials would read, "Lovely evening at Winspear with mayor and council."
Because that's all she needs. She calls up a council person, and it's like, "Hi, you remember me. I'm Ms. Pound-Gorilla, but you can call me Eight Hundred."
Hey, look. If you think I'm being mean to her, let me tell you something. Every time I write this stuff, her billings probably go up 10 percent. "Dallas Muckraker Accuses Lobbyist of Being Too Effective"—the kind of headline one dreams of only after too much Champagne.
Hunt has proposed that political campaign-runners be barred from lobbying the council. She thinks the rule should be that you can run campaigns, or you can lobby the council, but you can't do both.
I don't know. If I'm going to get all scrupulous about the Bill of Rights and the reporting issue, I guess I should worry about this one too. I'll try. But here's what I notice first.
Hunt's proposal, which I guess we might as well go ahead and call the Carol Reed Rule, is the one, the only idea brought forward at the recent city council briefing that indicated any enthusiasm at all for reform by anybody other than the mayor. The rest of the council pouted and whined and acted as if they were insulted anyone should think they need reforming.
Well, you know, council, that's kind of what people think when somebody from your house gets hauled off in the paddy wagon. Eyebrows do get raised.
But Hunt's idea is the only one that would inflict any pain whatsoever on the mayor. Not by accident, everything the mayor has proposed pushes the onus away from himself and his house lobbyist.
So how did The Dallas Morning News editorial page react to Hunt's idea? In that very strange and convoluted language I call "Beloese," the paper sort of lumped Hunt in with the bad council members who don't want any ethics reform at all.
"...when the mayor is struggling to persuade most council members to give an inch," the News intoned in an October 20 editorial, "Hunt's suggestion that they go an extra mile is doomed to fail."
Yeah. Sure. Let's try that logic out on some other situations just to see how it walks. When you are struggling to get the kids not to stay up all night drinking and smoking pot, the idea of getting them to go to school in the morning is doomed to fail.
Or this: If the mayor and council are already arguing about ways to blame their own failings on other people, any effort to get them to take responsibility themselves is doomed to fail.
Doomed? Oh, come on. We can't be that bad off. Let's take maybe a minute here to see if we could possibly imagine a way to turn some of this around.
For example, instead of requiring lobbyists to file reams of paperwork listing everybody they have talked to, why not ask the city council members and the mayor to list every lobbyist they talk to? It would be nice to have their full calendars accessible on the Web. And right away.
Another possibility: Instead of setting all kinds of artificial limits for gifts and inducements the council members do and do not have to report, how about asking them to report everything—every dinner, every sports event, every weekend outing that they accept?
We could ask them to tell us whenever they stand to profit by any amount from a council decision, directly or indirectly. See what I mean? Once we decide to put this back on them, where it belongs, there are lots of ways we could go. And should. I don't think the public's expectation of basic honesty at City Hall is doomed to failure, no matter what the Morning News says.