After LGC-Bragdon, it’s time to stop, think and act

The lesson from this misstep is that we must reform how Concord works for the public good

Having overseen the initial investigation of the Local Government Center — arguing in 2009 for increased disclosure over that organization’s use of funds as well as advocating the reining in of its lobbying efforts — I have witnessed firsthand how our political system has become dysfunctional.

The World War II movie, “A Bridge Too Far,” comes to mind when contemplating the recent public pushback regarding Sen. Peter Bragdon’s initial announcement to remain as Senate president while simultaneously heading the LGC. The real and implied conflict of interest in serving such dual roles was apparent to many watchers of Concord.

Simply put, one cannot serve two political masters when both are intertwined and one (LGC) is actually engaged in a legal challenge against the state and the other (the Senate president) could possibly influence — directly or indirectly — the state’s role in the matter.

What we now need to learn from this misstep is to take meaningful action to reform how Concord works, or rather doesn’t work at all times, for the public good.

More specifically, there are insufficient rules and guidelines concerning conflicts of interest regarding the Legislature. Absent clear guideposts, we thus embark on a political journey such as we recently witnessed concerning what it all means when a regulated entity hires someone with meaningful influence over its regulator: confusion at best and prospective political interference at worst.

Our current political system — in Concord, Washington and across the nation — is now dominated by special interests or private parties who command outsized influence over public officials and policy.

For example, lobbyists are directly involved in leading fundraising efforts for candidates, and continue to do so even after elections are over. Their outsized influence is too often self-serving and harmful. Reining in the power of lobbyist-money bundlers is long overdue. This means more timely disclosure of fundraising efforts as well as addressing when and how lobbyists interact with elected and appointed officials.

Hopefully, the LGC leadership matter will serve as a launching point to begin a meaningful review in Concord to rein in the excesses that have become the norm in American political life. In short order, we need to throttle back a system that allows those who seek special favor with outsized access to those elected by the public. The future of our democracy depends on it.

Mark Connolly former director of the state Bureau of Securities, owns New Castle Investment Advisors, an investment company in Portsmouth.

Categories: Opinion