Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Did Indiana Chamber Lobbyist Cross the Line?

Indiana State Chamber of Commerce lobbyist David Holt, has been accused of threatening to insert a hidden amendment into a bill to prohibit public tax dollars for being used to lobby the General Assembly.

This threat was an attempt to get school people to back off their efforts to stop mandatory Core 40 curriculum requirements for high schoolers unless there is funding for the additional staffing it might take to get licensed teachers. This bill was another example of proposals presented by legislators with no care whatsoever as to their funding impact.

Holt allegedly said, referring to slipping legislation in under the radar screen of the public, "You won't be able to touch it, you might not even see it."

Is this tolerated by Governor Daniels who promised in his state-of-the-state address that his government would be "more ethical and more open?" Now granted the Indiana Chamber of Commerce is not supposed to answer to the governor. But it's a safe bet from all that we have heard and seen that the governor's office has a close relationship with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

We assume that sneaking these things through without public debate is not in the administration's long term best interests.

It is unfortunate that the positions taken by the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce so consistently seem to defy their average member's views. I have often polled our local chamber members and they seem to have no idea of the positions their state leadership takes on public schools.

Meanwhile, back home in the trenches, the average chamber member in your heartland Hoosier community is likely to be a small local retailer whose kids go to public schools. They are season ticket holders at the basketball games and are in the front row cheering on their public school kids.

At the same time, back in the rarefied air of the state capitol, state chamber lobbyists threaten school lobbyists by telling them to back off of their opposing views or we will "bury" you.

Super Bloggers have obtained a document detailing this alleged conversation between Chamber lobbyist David Holt and Chuck Little, Indiana Urban Schools Association lobbyist.

Is this approach sanctioned by the State Chamber? Or is Holt out on his own?

Or does it come from above where the air is sometimes thin and the oxygen levels low?

24 Comments:

At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why aren't ISTA & NEA lobbying on this issue?

Is it right for taxpayers to pay for lobbying public officials?

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that Americans have dropped out of politics altogether and they hire it out.

This goes for all groups, public and private.

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My guess is that many entities that are dependant on taxpayers pay for lobbyists. And that is not in and of itself a bad thing. For instance, is it wrong for the mayor of Indianapolis to lobby the General Assembly for the Colts stadium and the convention center?

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a great example where our public superintendents cannot even match the eithical standards of the teacher unions. At least the dues for teacher unions are funded by dues from individual members. Superintendents, whose salaries are often in six figures and at least twice that of their most veteran teachers, extract the money from taxpayers. Maybe David Hult should not have been "threatening" (if that is really true) but it sure sounds like a GREAT IDEA! How insidious for a government employee to use tax dollars to suck more money from taxpayers. Is there really any better definition for BUREAUCRACY??? Isn't that word commonly defined as government that functions for the purpose of maintaining its own existence? Sounds awfully fitting to me!

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a great example where our public superintendents cannot even match the eithical standards of the teacher unions. At least the dues for teacher unions are funded by dues from individual members. Superintendents, whose salaries are often in six figures and at least twice that of their most veteran teachers, extract the money from taxpayers. Maybe David Hult should not have been "threatening" (if that is really true) but it sure sounds like a GREAT IDEA! How insidious for a government employee to use tax dollars to suck more money from taxpayers. Is there really any better definition for BUREAUCRACY??? Isn't that word commonly defined as government that functions for the purpose of maintaining its own existence? Sounds awfully fitting to me!

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If private does it, it's considered an effective and efficient way to have your opinions heard- if public does it, it's bad?

Is that a double standard?

I don't suppose there are any presidents or CEO's whose salaries are double their employees.

Is that a double standard?

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see if we can find an industry that isn't receiving public tax dollars.

Automotive? Dairy? Farmers? Railways? Airlines? Military?
Medical? etc. etc. etc.

Let's see do you think any of them hire lobbyists to have a voice?

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Wildcatter says,

It is amazing that the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce led by President Kevin Brinegar (who is also a public school board member in Noblesville) would allow his lobbyist to make such inflammatory remarks and threats to all of the professional educational associations in Indiana. But it all comes down to "Politics as Usual". I don't think anything ever really changes down in the Great Domed Bureaucracy at the Crossroads!

 
At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Holt has a habit of running his mouth off at inappropriate times. I can't believe the State Chamber would keep him on their payroll. He is an inept little man who didn't fare well in a public school. I've got news for David Holt. He wouldn't have done any better in a private school. He would have shot off his mouth one too many times and they would have kicked him right back to public school. It's time for the State Chamber to find another voice.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Earlier Comment: Let's see if we can find an industry that isn't receiving public tax dollars.

Yeah, good point. There are SOME industries that receive SMALL grants for SPECIFIC activities that the government has determined to be good for the overall economy/society/etc. If any of those industries spent that specified money to lobby for more money they'd risk going to prison for doing so.

Here's a more appropriate question than the one that has been asked: Name ANY other industry that is funded almost exclusively by public funds. Now, from that narrow set of answers, name ONE that uses uncontrolled amounts of those public resources to lobby our government for MORE resources. Can you name just one?!

You superintendents live in a make-believe world. It is truly amazing. Even the teacher unions - as much as I dislike THEM - seem more grounded in reality than you!

Indeed, on this particular point, you still have not answered the original question: why should superintendents get to use public money for their lobbying rather than dues from individual members, as is true with the teacher unions? If you're allowed to spend public money for lobbying, then why shouldn't the teacher unions? What's the difference?

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You asked us to name one industry that is almost exclusively funded with public tax dollars and is allowed to lobby the government for more money.

Answer: The military

How do you feel about them?

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer your question:

Why should superintendents (IAPSS) and school board members (ISBA) be allowed to staff a lobbyist when teachers lobby through their dues?

ISTA has primarily bargained for member benefits. Look at PL 217, the Collective Bargaining Law, that isn't viewed by most of us as a student-focused law at all.

ISBA and IAPSS have primarily lobbied for school district issues and issues of concern for public school students and patrons. In most cases it isn't lobbying at all. It is education. The average legislator has absolutely no concept how the school formula works - so most of IAPSS and ISBA's time is spent trying to explain to people what the effects are of all the hair-brained ideas that come up.

For every good idea that comes up there are 10 ideas that only make sense to people who know nothing about it.

Go through the 3 inch thick school law book and try to find very many laws that ISBA and IAPSS lobbied for that gave them direct benefits.

There is a big difference, even if some seem blind to it.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Answer: The military

Hmmm. Last I checked, "the military" doesn't lobby for anything. The PRESIDENT advocates for certain funding levels. The Secretary of Defense might advocate, at the discretion of the president. Some Congressmen might advocate. Etc.

But the only way that you could make this situation similar to your own would be if the various OFFICERS of the military were able to redirect some of their appropriations (and NOT their salaries) to a "Military Officers Association" that then went out and lobbied for more military funds. Pray tell: where is THAT happening? It's not. Your grade: F

Indeed, you did not even answer the real question: In response to the ridiculous effort to equate the resources of schools with the resources of private industries (both of them coming from public funds in your imaginary world), the question was focused on private industries that actually get a large portion of funds from government. In other words, this was a challenge to back up your ridiculous claims with actual examples. Even just ONE example!! Again -- what an amazing imaginary world in which you live.

On the other half of the assignment that you apparently overlooked, I ask again: What is the difference between YOUR lobbying organization and the ISTA? Why do you get to tap public funds when the ISTA is required to raise its funds from individual salaries? What's the difference? I am really curious to know!

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> ISTA has primarily bargained for member benefits.
> ISBA and IAPSS have primarily lobbied for school district issues and issues of concern for public school students and patrons. In most cases it isn't lobbying at all.

THANK YOU for a real answer! Of course, I'd love to see an ISTA response to this claim. Or for that matter, how about a response from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which probably DOES know something about education issues and which can also claim to be focused on the best interests of students and other district "patrons" - including the district's taxpayers (much of it business) as well as the students themselves(most of whom will be employed by business). Even if your distinction between the roles of ISTA and your association is accurate, why shouldn't the public be forced to pay the lobbying cost of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which also believes that it is representing the best interests of your district's "patrons?"

Okay, if you don't like that, how about the various non-union "associations" that represent other interests in your school. Where does that logic stop?

As for information vs lobbying: I bet that 90% of the lobbyists in the State House would make the same claim. Each is providing information WITH A VIEWPOINT AND A SET OF POLICY GOALS. It's just plain silly (or maybe arrogant is a better word) to portray YOUR "information" as somehow rising to a different moral level that is higher than information provided by others (including the ISTA and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce).

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay Anonymous, your hair splitting is getting a little annoying. You keep making a distinction between the lobbyists for the ISTA and the lobbyists for the Superintendents while ignoring the fact that all of the money comes from the same pot. Where do the teachers get the money to pay their dues? They get it from the same place the Superintendents get the money to pay their lobbyists.
So just take the money the Superintendents use to pay lobbyists and add it to their paycheck and then they can spend their "own" money for their lobbyists, just like the teachers do. Are you happy now?

The only other option is to require the Superintendents to get a second job and use that money to pay for their lobbying efforts. Except how can you be sure they are using the "extra" money for their lobbying efforts? Maybe they say they are, but really they are using money that the school pays them. What intrigue! What a waste of time!

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Okay Anonymous, your hair splitting is getting a little annoying.

Good. Glad to hear it.

> You keep making a distinction between the lobbyists for the ISTA and the lobbyists for the Superintendents while ignoring the fact that all of the money comes from the same pot.

Another observation from the imaginary world of superintendents. A person's salary -- regardless of their employer -- belongs to that person (except, of course, the excessive money that is reclaimed by various government entities). Under your misperception of ownership, all expenditures of public employees (including teachers and superintendents) would be subject to some level of government or public approval. It only takes a moment's thought to realize the ridiculousness of that idea (unless, of course, you are fond of Communist social structures).

> So just take the money the Superintendents use to pay lobbyists and add it to their paycheck and then they can spend their "own" money for their lobbyists, just like the teachers do. Are you happy now?

No, but I would be quite happy if you said simply that the dues ought to come from your salary - post taxes, just like the dues to every other association that I can think of. If you can justify higher salary for whatever reason, then good for you. But you have no more entitlement to additional salary for covering these dues than do teachers for additional salary to cover their union dues. Indeed, I am sure that many teachers would argue that you have LESS entitlement, given your salary differential.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I keep waiting for you to answer the question about whether or not it is ethical for the mayor of Indianapolis to lobby the General Assembly to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a stadium for a bunch of multimillionaire businessmen who ostensibly can't run their own business profitably.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I keep waiting for you to answer the question about whether or not it is ethical for the mayor of Indianapolis to lobby the General Assembly to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a stadium for a bunch of multimillionaire businessmen who ostensibly can't run their own business profitably.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I find it amusing that you criticize the amount of money superintendents make. Ironically those salaries are set the same way that any salary should be set in the private sector, by the market. There is no salary scale for superintendents. There are no minimums, no maximums, only the market. Do you not like the market? Do you not trust the market to set superintedents' salaries at a fair level? What is it about the law of supply and demand that so upsets you when it comes to superintendent's salaries?

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get it. Using public money to lobby makes you mad. Using public money to pay employees who use the same money (sans taxes) to pay lobbyists makes you happy. Therefore, it seems that the only issue is making sure that the money is taxed. I don't have a problem with that. I am grateful to find out that we are in violent agreement.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if public school superintendents can match the ethical standards of the Republican legislators who were hired by companies in the gaming industry? I'm sure that the fact that they had the opportunity to vote on issues affecting the gaming industry had nothing to do with their employment. It was just another isolated incident.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if it is coincidence that the anonymous poster has worked diligently diverting attention away from the unethical (in my opinion) behavior of the Indiana Chamber lobbyist? In reality, that has nothing to do with his question. While he badgers other posters about not answering his question, he refuses to deal with the main issue in the post, which is the question of David Holt's behavior. I give Anonmyous an "E" for evasive.

 
At Thursday, March 17, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These non-sensical replies are truly humorous. Thanks bunches for creating such a humorous website! The best part about it is all these people pretending to be superintendents who are clearly too ignorant to have ever reached that level of responsibility! That is TRULY great satire!! Thank you!!!!!!

 
At Friday, March 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We really do want to know what the proposed vision is for education in this country, especially from those that are not public school supporters.

What DO the crticis stand for? It is easy to be against things, but what do you envision for public education in the future. What should it look like?

The site was developed to create engagement with others on educational topics. And it has.

But, like all discussion boards, it does deteriorate from time-to-time due to the impersonal nature of the internet.

Unfortunate, but not unexpected.

Like most of you, we have all typed comments that we erase before hitting send.

Indiana Public School Superintendent

 

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