What’s The Difference Between A “Lobbyist” And A “Special Assistant”?
According to the Minot Daily News, the City of Minot is hiring former Republican US House candidate Shane Goettle to “represent the city before the Legislature.” This comes after news that Goettle had become a lobbyist for the new public affairs division of the Odney marketing firm.
But you’ll notice something interesting in the Minot Daily News article. Goettle isn’t called a lobbyist. He’s called a “special assistant city attorney,” because according to state law (at least state law as defined by an Attorney General’s opinion) cities can’t hire lobbyists.
Minot would hire Goettle as a special assistant city attorney rather than as a lobbyist, said city attorney John Van Grinsven. According to an Attorney General’s opinion, cities cannot hire lobbyists. Cities may hire an employee or agent to act in an official capacity to represent the city’s interests before the Legislature, he said.
So Goettle, who works for a lobbying firm representing political issues and political clients, will be representing the City of Minot before the legislature. Which is what lobbyists do. But he’s not a lobbyist because…why exactly? The city isn’t using the word “lobbyist” in his job title?
Is anyone really buying this?
I don’t have a problem with lobbying. All sorts of groups and causes hire lobbyists to represent them at the various levels of government. Lobbying is a 1st amendment protected activity, and it should be, though I have a problem with government hiring lobbyists to lobby other levels of government. Why do we elect mayors and city commissioners? Isn’t part of their job to communicate their community’s needs to other levels of government?
It’s a sign of how broken our system is that leadership in local government is defined less by actual leadership than by how effectively they petition higher levels of government to solve all their problems. I sometimes wonder if our national debt problem is the result of profligacy by national politicians, or just the fact that all levels of government punt their problems up the ladder until they necessarily accumulate at the highest level of government.
But I digress.
If the City of Minot is going to hire a lobbyist, why play this charade? I’m not sure I’m even against cities hiring lobbyists – local governments should have a say on policy considered at higher levels of government – but that’s lobbying and should be called that.Tags: North Dakota News, shane goettle