Thursday, February 8, 2007

Five Reasons Why Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying is bad for a democracy

I'm starting to feel shellshocked as I realize that there is a huge proliferation of these taxpayer-funded lobbying groups.

Check out the Texas Association of Midsize Schools. Legislative lobbying activities are clearly their main purpose. Now look at their membership application for the tell-tale "purchase order" section, which signals that people don't join this group with their own money. They join it with your money.

Same for the Texas Association of Community Schools. Look at their membership materials.

This brings me to Reason Number One about why taxpayer-funded lobbying is bad for a democracy.

There is no accountability to those who are paying the bills.

Who sets the legislative agenda for the Texas Association of Community Schools? Who decides what bills they will lobby for and which bills they will lobby against?

Do the taxpayers who pay the taxes which get converted into dues and checks from many school districts all over the state make these decisions?

No. They don't even know this is happening.

Do the school boards who are ultimately responsible for the budgets in their districts get to set the legislative agenda for TACS (or TASB or TASBO or TASA, etc.)?

I doubt that the members of most of those school boards are aware of what is going on, and I'm positive that even if they do know about this, they don't get a vote in determining TASC's legislative agenda.

Do the individual teachers and administrators who "belong" to TASC get to set their legislative agenda? I don't know but I'm going to find out.

What is particuarly worrisome is the possibility that the Associate Members TASC brags about on its front page might be involved with setting this group's legislative agenda.

That means that lobbyists funded by your tax dollars may be hearing a lot from these private corporations and associations:

Association Insurance Management
The Cooperative Purchasing Network (TCPN) (Exclusive)
A. Bargas & Associates
Henslee, Fowler, Hepworth & Schwartz, LLP
Johnson Controls, Inc.
PBK Architects, Inc.
Powell & Leon, LLP
Power Scholarships
Saxon Publishers
These are groups that obtain a direct, personal financial benefit from more and bigger public schools--regardless of whether those schools are delivering a quality educational product.

Shouldn't they have to pay for their own lobbyists?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you should add the "BUYBOARD" to this list. The taxpayers pay the school districts, the districts are members of the Buyboard, and somebody is making money. But who? The individual members? The TASB? Is this the money that they use to fund lobbying? Who is benefiting? Certainly not the vendors, I haven't spoken to even one who likes paying the fees associated with selling on the Buyboard.

If the Buyboard is making a profit, which according to articles I read it is, how can a taxpayer-funded organization earn money? Is it taxed on the profit?

And the Buyboard isn't such a good deal for schools. Wenger charges 4% more for music stands sold through the Buyboard than they do for music stands sold direct to the school. We recently priced some musical instruments to our local school district CHEAPER than the Buyboard price, but they still were REQUIRED to buy them from the Buyboard. Who are these people, and where are our tax dollars going?