Alaska lawmakers are talking about rolling back one of the highest-profile pieces of ethics reform passed during the heat of the federal corruption investigation: the requirement lobbyists report when they buy legislators any meal or drink over $15.
The law has proven unpopular with legislators who say it's pretty much impossible to get a decent dinner in Juneau for less than 15 bucks. Lawmakers who want to keep the limit counter that lobbyists can pick up the tab for more than $15; they just need to disclose it to the Alaska Public Offices Commission and publicly name the legislator or legislative staff member they treated.
The issue centers on a bill in the Legislature that could raise the limit to $50 before a lobbyist needs to report.
Meals bought by lobbyists have always been part of the legislative culture in Juneau. It might be a round of drinks at the Triangle Club or maybe a dinner with wine at Zephyr, where the lobbyist makes sure to grab the bill when it arrives and none of the legislators at the table object.
A review of disclosures shows that lobbyists for cruise ship interests, refiners, seafood corporations, health care interests, municipalities and others reported picking up tabs worth hundred of dollars last year.
"Is a meal unethical? No. Should it be reported? Well, maybe. If you spend $100 bucks on a meal, I think people have a right to know. But if you're just sitting down to a meal with somebody, what's the big deal? It's nothing unethical," said North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill.
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