Bill would put spotlight on lobbyists, PACs

December 31, 2012 

YAY: LOBBYING FEE

State lawmakers should approve House Bill 1005, which would require lobbyists and political action committees to pay a fee that would help the state Public Disclosure Commission create an easy-to-use, online database to track activities of lobbyists.

The current system for tracking what amounted to $51.8 million in lobbying expenses in 2012 is not user-friendly, making it hard for citizens to track the money lobbyists spend to influence legislators.

This is a bill that promotes transparent, open government. It has the added benefit of merging state ethics boards with the PDC, putting related government watchdog work under one roof.

Political action committees and lobbyists earning more than $10,000 a year would pay a $250 fee. Government agencies with more than 50 full-time employees would pay $150.

The bill would help shine light on lobbying activities, allowing citizens to connect the dots between lobbyists, political causes and elected officials.

BOO: DONOR SCAM

Wouldn’t you know it. A 37-year-old New York City woman set up a phony funeral fund to seek donations on behalf of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings in Newtown, Conn.

But the money she collected was going in her pocket, not those of the victims. Fortunately, federal agents caught wind of the scam and arrested her.

YAY: MUSIC FROM TRASH

Talk about inspirational: Children living in abject poverty in a landfill outside Asuncion, Paraguay, are using instruments fashioned out of garbage to form a chamber orchestra that makes beautiful music.

Who would have ever dreamed that discarded aluminum salad bowls, X-ray film, bottle caps, galvanized pipe and cans could be transformed into instruments, which, in the hands of these ingenious, motivated sons and daughters of trash pickers, resonate with the sound of music, everything from Beethoven to The Beatles.

Favio Chavez, a social worker and music teacher, started the 20-member orchestra, which has played all over South America, and will be honored at an exhibit opening next year at the Musical Instruments Museum in Phoenix, Ariz.

The orchestra gives new hope and meaning to children mired in unimaginable poverty. Let their music transform their lives, and the lives of their families.

BOO: FRANKENFISH

Genetically engineered salmon that grow twice as fast as natural ones are a step closer to the dinner table in the United States.

But Pacific Northwest members of Congress, food-safety activists and the traditional salmon-fishing industry remain up in arms over a recent Food and Drug Administration ruling that genetically modified fish are safe to eat and pose no threat to the environment.

The Atlantic salmon infused with a growth hormone from a chinook salmon and the gene of an eel-like ocean fish grows larger and faster than traditional salmon.

But it won’t be welcome in this neck of the woods, where wild salmon are iconic and modified salmon are derisively called “Frankenfish.”

YAY: NORM DICKS

Only a few days remain in the 36-year run of Norm Dicks as congressman from the state’s 6th District. It’s hard to fathom Congress without the lifelong politician with a larger-than-life personality.

Dicks gained a reputation as the state’s “third senator,” an acknowledgement that his sphere of influence stretched far beyond the boundaries of the district he served.

He was mentored by two of the most influential senators this state ever produced – Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Warren Magnuson. It’s safe to say his political legacy will rival theirs.

BOO: TURTLE STUDY

What happens when a realistic-looking rubber turtle is placed on a roadway? Far too many motorists go out of their way to run over it.

How disgusting is that? No wonder road kill is so commonplace. The study by Clemson University student Nathan Weaver just verified the dark side of the human spirit.

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