The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is just one example. They are heavily involved in writing the legislation that they then push for support. In doing so, I’m not suggesting these special interests are doing anything illegal. They have every right to participate, both from a legal as well as constitutional perspective. But if the old adage that an elected official should be able to accept their money, eat their food, drink their booze, and vote against their interests when wiser ones were more common, I’d have much less trouble with the current situation.
A more specific problem comes with the practice of special interests getting candidates to sign a pledge. Signing a pledge to never vote for a tax increase, for instance, may probably seem politically wise at the time. It likely will lead to campaign contributions and some key votes for election. The problem comes later, after being elected, when in some cases forces totally out of anyone’s control put the elected body in a position where common sense dictates the need for more revenue. Breaking signed pledges can be awkward in a re-election campaign. But in our case in Kansas, the crisis was self-inflicted, which makes breaking a pledge all the more problematic and difficult to explain. The largest tax increase in state history was a direct result of the misguided, one-sided tax cut from 2012.
In today’s environment, it takes a particularly courageous individual to break a pledge, even when it is in the best interests of the constituents. That said, I have found the public is quite amazing at forgiving when they have the facts before them, and I am pleased that there are now a few legislators acknowledging that the 2012 tax cut may have gone too far. However, breaking their commitment to each of these groups will not come without consequences. So how will this all play out come election season? That remains to be seen, and I’ll turn my focus towards campaigns and elections in my next post in this series about how we got here.