The MDJ reported on Monday, November 4th that Cobb County commission chairman Tim Lee plans to send out a request for proposal for a lobbyist firm that can handle lobbying on both the state and federal level. The article stated that $125,000 is budgeted for lobbying, but it is not known what the final cost will be since no contract has yet been negotiated.Surely I can’t be one of only a few Cobb taxpayers that is troubled and bewildered by this expense, but as I write this there have been only two comments on the MDJ website to the story, and no LTE’s as of yet. If Chairman Lee can pull this off I can only wonder if all the anger over political issues has been used up on Obama.
Lee says that it is about who can build relationships with elected officials. Really. All along I thought that local elected officials built relationships not only with other officials on the state and federal level that serve Cobb County, but also various administrators and officials that can affect our county. Not only are there Republican Party Saturday breakfasts that seem to be well attended by the Cobb delegation and our federal representatives, but there are countless other gatherings and meetings where business can be discussed. If Lee is not attending these breakfasts and gatherings (I don’t know what his participation record is), then as a full time commission chairman he is not engaging in one of the functions that the taxpayers have a right to expect from him. One would think that he would have more credibility discussing issues with elected officials than a paid shill.
Lee rightfully pointed out that it is not possible to know every committee chairperson at the state capitol, chairpersons that may have significant power over legislation that impacts Cobb residents. But it is hard to believe that our state representatives don’t have relationships with these people. Why can’t Lee have them “lobby” the appropriate chairperson? Isn’t that something that goes with the job of being a state rep? Would a contract with a lobbying firm put limitations on money it spends working to get some desired result? Or would a lobbyist be able to bill for expenses that are exempted from the new state ethics law governing what monies can be paid to officials? Would the lobbyist be required to file reports to the commission that could be obtained under the Open Records Act? Is the lobbying firm going to consist of former state representatives that are part of the “club” that gets access?
To sum up, I can’t figure out why the taxpayers should pay for someone to do what Lee should be doing himself. One would think that Lee would have developed good working relations with the Cobb delegation by now, and if he hasn’t maybe it’s time for him to seek other employment. In fact, maybe that’s what he ultimately has in mind, to become a lobbyist himself after ingratiating himself with whichever firm was to get this contract. This should not be allowed to happen, and with all the negativity about spending, this is one spending item that the commissioners should vote down. If there is all this extra money to pay for a lobbyist, perhaps instead it could be better spent by hiring three more police officers who do real work and individually get paid about a third of what Lee proposes.