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County panel votes to stop hiring lobbyists

Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

For years, state legislators have listened to lobbyists argue one side of an issue on behalf of Cook County taxpayers, only to hear the opposite argument posed by another lobbyist hired by the county.

Repeated embarrassments created by those conflicting messages have led to a new county policy.

A majority of the county board -- which controls county spending and policy -- says it will no longer approve contracts for any other officials to hire legislative lobbyists. A final vote is expected Oct. 5.

The policy will save taxpayers thousands, while also providing a foundation for the Legislature to hear a singular county voice.

County Clerk Dorothy Brown and Recorder of Deeds Gene Moore objected, saying they should be able to spend money on their own lobbyists, even if those lobbyists are arguing against issues being pushed by other county lobbyists.

The county State's Attorney's office has functioned without lobbyists, instead tapping two employees to work in lobbying functions when the Legislature is in session. Commissioner Larry Suffredin called it "the model we're looking for."

Lobbying "is part of the job of elected officials: to advance the agenda they were elected on. It's not the county board's job to finance high-paid lobbyists," Commissioner Forrest Claypool said.

The resolution unanimously approved by a county committee Tuesday won't stop county officials from sending employees to Springfield to lobby legislators, but holds the line on contracts.

The county board "will retain two lobbyists to represent Cook County on pending state legislative matters," it reads, though "no lawyer or lobbyist hired to represent the county may represent . . . any [other] county elected official or political committee of any county elected official while they represent the county."

Moore said that would "cripple" his ability to run an office, while Brown said it crosses the line from commissioners practicing "simple fiscal responsibility" to trying to take over her office.


 

 



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