A registered Republican, I recently received a flier from the Republican Party against Tom Bradshaw, who is running for a state Senate seat. The flier tried to make it look as if Bradshaw and all lobbyists pay off politicians under the table to influence their votes.
The flier crosses the line, and the party owes Bradshaw an apology.
No elected leader knows everything about every issue he votes on. Lobbyists are professionals whose role is to educate elected leaders on issues that affect their industries. With information from lobbyists on both sides of an issue, an elected leader can make an informed decision.
Lobbyists cannot legally give money to officials and are not going to risk their jobs and careers by giving money under the table to elected leaders.
Most local governments and boards of education hire lobbyists. Most environmental organizations, medical associations, nonprofits and business groups hire lobbyists. It is a cheap shot for the Republican Party to imply that all lobbyists are paying off elected leaders. Of course, it is also implying that all politicians accept bribes, so it cuts both ways.
More of a problem than any perceived influence of lobbyists is how both political parties dictate how members of their party should vote on an issue. If candidates do not support the party line, they may lose funding from the political party for their next election. Political parties put hundreds of thousands of dollars into local races on behalf of their candidates.
Super PACs also spend large sums of money on attack ads that distort the truth. A lobbyist or business PAC could never compete with the power and money of political parties or Super PACs.
I am tired of negative campaign strategies. Tell me what you are going to do and why I should vote for you rather than leave voters with the feeling of choosing between the lesser of two evils.
Candidates should listen to lobbyists on issues, make informed decisions, be their own persons and vote for what is right. The political parties should listen to the growing number of unaffiliated voters who cannot find a home in either party. There must be a reason people do not want to have their names associated with a party, and most of that comes from the negative ads both parties run. Parties have lost the respect and trust of many voters and their own party members.
The lobbying system does work, and we built our country working together for a common goal. Lobbyists should be respected for their knowledge and not characterized as criminals.
Bradshaw – a former mayor of Raleigh – has the respect and trust of one of the largest banking concerns in the country to represent it and educate elected officials across the country on funding for transportation programs. He has to be quite knowledgeable on these issues to have held such a prestigious position with Citigroup.
There is a point that doing what is right for me and doing what is right for all tells us who we really are. I am afraid the political parties are doing what is right for themselves but not what is right for our country. We need strong leaders willing to work across the aisle to do what is right and not let the parties dictate how they vote.
Jim Wahlbrink of Raleigh is a former executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County.