The Quick, Bloody And Justified Death Of The ‘No Cup Of Coffee’ Bill

The Dead Pelican has the story of state Rep. Walker Hines (R-New Orleans) and his ill-fated HB 453, the “No Cup Of Coffee” bill which would have made it illegal for lobbyists to buy state legislators a Coke or a bottle of Ozarka or a cup of joe in an attempt to ingratiate themselves and get legislation passed.

In less than 5 minutes of debate, the House Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously rejected HB 453 by Representative Walker Hines (R-New Orleans) which sought to ban lobbyists from providing any free meals, gifts, and drinks to elected officials, also known as the “no-cup-of-coffee-law.” It was the second time in four years that Hines was unsuccessful in attempting to remove lobbyists ability to entertain elected officials.

Hines had a statement out on the defeat today, which TDP quoted…

“Although I am disappointed, I can’t say that I’m surprised by the total lack of discussion and ‘quick kill’ of my legislation. The silence in the committee room was deafening. Despite numerous Legislators indicating support for my bill prior to the committee hearing, only one member had the courage to discuss the merits of my bill. Equally concerning, not one Legislator objected to the motion to kill my bill.”

“As I finish my first and last term in the State Legislature and pursue other public service opportunities, I will continue to challenge the status quo, speak the truth, and fight for good government and increased transparency. In the future, I hope the public demands their elected officials adopt a complete ban for free gifts, drinks, or meals from lobbyists. Despite a strong endorsement of HB 453 by the Tea Party of Louisiana, it will take an even greater citizen outreach effort in the future to see this bill become law. Until that happens, lobbyists will continue to have considerable influence over elected officials.”

Hines is 25 years old, and switched parties from Democrat to Republican a few months ago. He’s running for Secretary of State this fall, meaning he’s bucking for as much free media as he can get.

A few observations on this…

First, it’s an uncommonly stupid bill. Hines might be green, but he can’t possibly be so green as to think if a Randy Haynie, Alton Ashy or Charlie Smith goes to see John Alario about a bill he’s going to be successful or not based on whether he brings an extra can of Fresca with him. That’s an insult to all of those guys – and most people know that it takes a hell of a lot more than a tasty beverage to buy Alario’s vote. This bill was never about passage – it was about Hines posturing as the Defender Of Ethics by introducing it.

Second, Hines has to be even less surprised than he lets on. Any legislator who told him they were for that bill was shining him on. My guess is he’s lying about that in any event – no legislator is going to be willing to put him or herself through the hassle of saying “Nope! I can’t have that iced tea with you! We’d both be in Angola!”

Vote for that? Gimme a break.

And third, isn’t it past time to get off this business about the evil lobbyists?

Hines particularly needs to shut the hell up on this issue.

Why are there lobbyists? Because people want to protect their interests at the legislature or the Congress. And why do they need to do so much of that these days? Because government’s hands are in EVERYTHING. At the federal and state level there are laws about virtually every form of human activity. An oppressive amount of legislation; so much so that in most fields of endeavor it’s virtually impossible to comply with all of it. Once you hire lawyers and accountants in an attempt to cope, you’re now in position to consider going to the legislature to get some of this stuff off your back. And that means lobbyists.

In other words, if you want to scale down the influence lobbyists have at the legislature or Capitol Hill the only way you’re going to do that is to reduce the size and scope of government – so that it’s not necessary or worthwhile to spend a lot of money on them.

This is an old saw by now, but the story of Bill Gates and Microsoft is a perfect example of how this works. Gates used to go around telling people he was from “the other Washington,” and bragged about how non-political he and his company were.

Then Janet Reno tried to destroy his company.

Microsoft now spends tens of millions of dollars on lobbyists and the minute they started doing that – out of necessity, mind you – they looked for ways to monetize that investment. Now they do as much rent-seeking as anybody else in the country based on the political pull they’ve amassed out of that lobbying dollar.

We like the old Microsoft. We want everybody to be like they were.

But with people like Walker Hines in the legislature, EVERYBODY needs a lobbyist. Why? Well, let’s have a look at some of the bills he pushed prior to this year, when he flipped from Democrat to Republican and realized he wouldn’t get far with the voters authoring a bunch of nanny-state trash bills…

  • HB959 (2010) – Imposes a moratorium on implementation of the resource allocation models administered by the Department of Health and Hospitals and provides for new implementation recommendations based on national best practices (which was tubed in committee amid headaches galore about the chaos it would have caused and the, ahem, lobbying which would have ensued)
  • HB1377 (2010) – Prohibits sex offenders from being within one thousand feet of a school bus stop (how on earth does THAT get enforced?)
  • HB638 (2009) – Excludes income earned by individuals aged 18 to 29 from individual income taxes under certain circumstances (because taxing folks based on their age wouldn’t get lobbyists involved in any way, shape or form, right?)
  • HB781 (2009) – Creates the program for homeless assistance and prevention, the position of a director for homeless assistance and prevention, and the Louisiana Interagency Council for the Homeless (had Jindal not vetoed this it would have basically created a state-funded lobbyist for the homeless!)
  • HB323 (2008) – Abolishes the death penalty in Louisiana (nothing like a good death penalty ban to touch off a constant stream of lobbying activity; just ask ’em in California)
  • HB351 (2008) – Creates green building standards for certain buildings (hoo, boy)

And on, and on.

And there’s more to this as well. Because as it turns out, Hines really doesn’t have it in for lobbyists as much as he lets on. In fact, while he wants the voters of the Great State of Louisiana to know that he’s a Crusader For All That Is Right And Good And Ethical, behind the scenes he’s got his nose in the dirt with everybody else.

I offer as evidence this note, which has been passed along to me by SEVERAL lobbyists of my acquaintance. It was sent by Hines via e-mail back in March. And I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a lot less demonizing of lobbyists than some of Hines’ public statements have been…

Friends and Supporters,

As you may have heard by now, I recently announced my run for Louisiana Secretary of State.  I have traveled to every part of the State over the two months and have earned support from leading businesspeople in every region of the State.  To date, I have 68 prominent business leaders who have agreed to support my candidacy.  Most have pledged to raise our campaign $10,000 each.  Many members have already fulfilled this request.

The first major fundraising deadline is THIS Saturday, March 19.  I cannot accept any campaign contributions from March 20-April 13.  During that time, I will be in Baton Rouge in a Redistricting Special Legislative Session.

I was hoping you or your company would consider making a $1000 contribution to my campaign before this Saturday.  State Campaign Finance Laws prohibit contributions of more than $5000 per individual or corporation per election cycle for Statewide Offices.  Smaller donations will also be accepted.

Checks can be made out to: Walker Hines Campaign LLC
and mailed to: Walker Hines Campaign Fund, 5500 Prytania St. #626, New Orleans, LA 70115

If I miss you before the first deadline, I’ll get back in touch with you in April when I hold a couple of official fundraisers before our Regular Legislative Session.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance or if you would like to meet with me to discuss legislative issues or the campaign.
Sincerely,

Walker

Walker Hines

I particularly like the last sentence, which is why we’re going to repeat it…

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance or if you would like to meet with me to discuss legislative issues or the campaign.

Maybe he could have been a little more upfront and suggested that his help on legislative issues is predicated on their help with the campaign. Naw, he’d never do that, would he?

It’s clear Hines isn’t a very good politician. It’s also clear he’s not much of a legislator. Tonight it’s clear he’s not the ethical crusader he makes himself out to be, either.

No wonder the rest of the Governmental Affairs Committee had zero interest in his coffee bill.

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