The Rochester Democrat sent an email to all of her House colleagues today pointing to the invitation as an example of why lawmakers need to reinstate the gift ban restriction on free food and drink for lawmakers. The DFL-led Legislature approved a campaign finance bill this past session that loosened the 20-year gift ban restrictions to allow lobbying groups to throw these receptions for lawmakers.
Liebling wrote, "Thanks to the campaign finance bill passed this year, the Minnesota Business Partnership and other lobbying groups with deep pockets can now spend whatever they want to on legislators so long as they invite us all."
Rochester Republican Sen. Dave Senjem sponsored the amendment to loosen the gift ban. He argued that the strict law had made it difficult for lawmakers from different sides of the aisle to get to know each and build important relationships. That, in turn, has made things more contentious and partisan.
Under the new law, lawmakers and legislative employees can attend the receptions without having to pay as long as all 201 lawmakers are invited and at least five days' notice. The email from a staff member at the Minnesota Partnership states, "Reminder to members of the legislature, legislative staff and state government officials: there is no fee for the dinner this year!" The partnership's annual dinner and meeting is set for Sept. 23 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Liebling doesn't buy the argument that these sorts of dinner will help lawmakers get to know each other better. She writes, "Will it help us be more "collegial" and get to know each other better? I doubt it. Will it give wealthier groups or individuals yet another advantage over the ordinary citizen or non-profit? You bet. I think this is a bad policy and should be repealed."