Consumer Group Calls for Audit of Governor's Use of Private Lobbyists to Write Public Policy
Consumer advocates sent a letter to Senate President Pro Tem John Burton today, calling on him to request an investigation and report by the State Auditor on the efficacy of Governor Davis' continued practice of using private lobbyists as government advisors. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights also sent a letter to Davis, calling on him to immediately bar corporate lobbyists from closed-door budget discussions.
Davis has given power to craft his current budget proposal to Phil Isenberg and Patrick Johnston, who are on the payroll of some of the most influential special interests in the state including HMOs and energy companies. FTCR further called on the Governor to publicly announce the details of all topics discussed during budget meetings where Isenberg or Johnston were present.
"The State Auditor should do her own State of the State analysis and report the extent to which corporate lobbyists hold the reins in Sacramento," said FTCR consumer advocate Carmen Balber. "We expect elected officials to craft public policy, not allow private citizens and corporate lobbyists who are publicly unaccountable to make governmental decisions."
According to filings with the Secretary of State's office, in 2001-02 alone Phil Isenberg's firm was paid $147,000 by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, $183,000 by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and $236,000 by FPL Energy. Johnston's current clients include Health Net of California and Pacific Life Insurance Company. All of these clients have significant interests in the budget debate.
"The Auditor's input on the efficacy of Governor Davis's continued use of non-governmental employees in key positions of governmental decision making is much needed," says the letter to Burton. Balber adds, "Isenberg and Johnston do not sit silent every time an issue is raised that affects their corporate clients -- if they do they're bad lobbyists."
Johnston and Isenberg's role in the budget process continues the Governor's disturbing trend of assembling an inner circle of advisers from outside lobbyists who are not employed by the state and do not have to abide by conflict of interest laws. For example, Darius Anderson, the Governor's chief fundraiser and privy to similar inner circle conversations, counted Calpine, General Motors and PG&E as clients of his firm while each company had significant interests before the legislature and Governor.
Copies of the letters are available online at the following links: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/corporate/pr/pr002977.php3