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County may rein in lobbyist spending

Sunday, September 26, 2004
Daily Southtown

A committee of the Cook County Board has approved a resolution that would effectively bar the county's top officials from hiring their own lobbyists to advocate for them in the Legislature.

The measure will go before the full board Oct. 5. The resolution says the county board will not approve lobbying contracts for officials such as the clerk of the circuit court, the recorder of deeds or the state's attorney.

The practice of hiring lobbyists to represent individual officials came under scrutiny in June when it was learned that Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore and county board President John Stroger had quietly instructed their own lobbyists to work against an affordable-housing bill that the county board had endorsed and Stroger had publicly supported.

Moore objected to a provision that required his office to collect a fee that would have helped pay for the housing measure. Stroger agreed with Moore. But when the county board voted on the measure, Stroger did not make his opposition known.

The result was not only that county officials were working at cross purposes on the same measure, but taxpayers were paying lobbyists to argue both sides of the issue.

Two officials objected this week to the new proposed policy. Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown said county board members were trying to take over her office. Recorder Moore said the new policy would "cripple" his ability to run his office. Both are overstating the situation, unless they believe they have to be able to secretly support legislation in order to do their jobs.

If they think the county should support or oppose a particular measure, they should go to the county board, engage in public debate and then abide by the majority's decision. So should Stroger, for that matter, although the other board members are going to have a hard time convincing their lobbyists that they should ignore Stroger and follow the board's direction if it comes to that.

But the idea of paying separate lobbyists for county officers is a separate matter, and it makes no sense for taxpayers to fund lobbyists on both sides of the same issue.

 

 



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