Something I changed my mind about…

Occasionally, I get asked here whether I ever change my mind about anything. I don’t know why I get asked that; probably because of the very definite manner in which I present opinions that I have examined and tested over and over again. I have a certain tone, people tell me.

Well, yes — sometimes I do change my mind. Here’s something I changed my mind about some time ago…

On an earlier post, “Tim” changed the subject and brought up Trey Walker’s departure to become a lobbyist for USC:

Wasn’t one of [Gov. Haley’s] points in the State of the State to eliminate state employee lobbyists?

And that reminded me… Back when we I led the “Power Failure” project at The State in 1991, I was convinced that state agency lobbyists were a bad idea. And I described the badness of the idea in the same terms the libertarians use: It was wrong for the taxpayers to have to pay someone to lobby the Legislature to spend more tax money in their area. Of course, that was a gross oversimplification of what lobbyists do, but it seemed convincing at the time. In those days, I was occasionally guilty of thinking about issues not much more deeply than Nikki Haley does.

Speaking of which… most of the actual good ideas that Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley espouse — and they have advocated some good one — can be found in a reprint of the “Power Failure” project. In fact, in Sanford’s case, a lot of them seem to have come directly from just such a reprint that I sent him when he was first starting to run for governor. Then, for some time, I heard my own words out on the stump and then coming from the governor’s office (and some of you still wonder why I endorsed the guy in 2002).

Anyway, back to the topic…

Over time, I changed my mind about the state agency lobbyists. About lobbyists in general, but especially state agency ones. I changed my mind about a number of things after I moved from news to editorial. I thought I was a pretty thoughtful guy when I was in news. But after I had to write opinions every day that would be read by more than 100,000 people, people who would challenge every word, every concept, who would tear into any weakness in my thinking, I thought about things on a deeper level than I had before, taking more factors into consideration than I ever had before.

One of the factors was that, as I observed the Legislature more and more, I came to value more the input that only someone with intimate knowledge of an agency could offer to the legislative process. Let’s just say that the more I knew about our lawmakers, and the harder I looked into issues before taking a position, the less impressed I was with our solons’ understanding of what was going on. Having someone there who could say, “Here’s how this works” before they make a change affecting an agency is immensely valuable. And folks, it’s not always about spending. Often, it’s about whether the policies put into law help or hurt the agency’s ability to deliver its assigned service to the people of South Carolina.

Those guys over in the State House need all the relevant, well-informed input they can get. And if the lobbyists are any good, they are worth their salaries and then some.

Even Nikki Haley thinks so, since she said about Trey’s move, “He’s a talented, loyal and committed guy — and the University of South Carolina is lucky to have him.” Which I take to mean that she agrees with me that he’ll be worth his $135,000 salary there.

Once Trey gets on board, maybe when he makes his visits to the State House, he can drop by his former boss’s office and fill her in on what USC is all about, and how important it is to this state.

If he could do that, he’d be worth twice the pay.

9 thoughts on “Something I changed my mind about…

  1. Tim

    I covered the Statehouse a fair amount in the day. One thing I realized is that, no matter what you do, someone at a state agency gets called down to the statehouse to ‘explain’. They, of course, advocate the agencies position. My point is, you simply cannot eliminate ‘state agency lobbyists’. The legislature requires it; someone becomes the default lobbyist. It became my main problem with term limits. It seems a good idea to rotate them out every so often, but the net effect is you don’t create a more accountable government, since the lobbyists and staff become the default ones with the knowledge of “how things work”. I don’t guess its changed since the Pharaohs.

  2. Lynn T

    This spring I watched a General Assembly committee fumble its way through a proposed amendment to the financial arrangements for a somewhat peripheral state government entity, and it was a pathetic sight to see. No one on the committee, and no one on their staffs, knew what the organization in question did, where it got its money, why it wanted to amend part of its charter (or indeed whether they wanted it or someone else did), or why the heck they should agree or not agree. No one, at all, had a clue. That is the awful effect of prohibiting agencies from having legislative liasons. The only people who get to the members of the General Assembly are lobbyists for external organizations that have their own fish to fry. It does serious harm.

  3. Scout

    I agree that sounds like a very valid job. Perhaps they should use some other term with less baggage than ‘lobbyist’ for that position. Something like agency-legislative liason or ambassador or legislative advisor.

  4. Hawkman

    Has anyone noticed that Monday pages are down to about 6 and Tuesday and Wednesday both appear to be suffering and that at $3 the Sunday edition is about ready to tank big time? Brad…no one cares if you changed your mind. No one from around here, anyway. Your paper is stage four…you know it, anyone who has lived here for more than 10 years knows it. Best hone them blogging skills…old boy.

  5. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Hawkman–you are talking about the former “broadsheet” The State? Have you noticed how skinny it is, too?

    and Sunday’s front page was more than half photograph of people mostly wearing red clothes. Wow. How newsworthy–people around here support the Gamecocks by wearing team colors!

Comments are closed.