Jun 2, 2010

For Legislators, Not for Doctors

The article below was published in the Boston Herald (HERE) and profiles the amount of money being spent on legislators for one single junket.  The irony is that the Senator profiled has been one of the most outspoken critics of physicians receiving food or office supplies from vendors and staunchly supported recently implemented marketing regulations that curbed these activities.

Hacks bluegrassing on taxpayers’ green
$200G spent on concert, booze

By Dave Wedge  |   Wednesday, June 2, 2010  | 

Party-hearty Beacon Hill lawmakers are chipping in taxpayer dough to an old Kentucky hoedown where they will schmooze with lobbyists, play the ponies, swill bourbon on Churchill Downs’ “Millionaires Row” and enjoy a private serenade by Wynonna Judd and Loretta Lynn.

The state Legislature has doled out $200,000 from its legislative account for “dues” to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is hosting the four-day blowout next month in Louisville, Ky. The event, which annually draws 5,000 lawmakers, lobbyists, union reps and private executives, will serve as the coronation of state Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge), who will be crowned NCSL president at the confab.

Highlights of the July 25-28 Kentucky bash include:
  • “A Race to the Finish Line” - billed as a night of “magic” at Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby, lawmakers will “dine in Millionaires’ Row and taste some of Kentucky’s Master Bourbon Distillers’ best offerings.” There will also be an exclusive card of live racing where pols can bet with a complimentary $100 voucher. The winner scores a private box for the 2011 Derby.
  • “Night of Legends” - a private concert on the shores of the Ohio River featuring Wynonna Judd, Loretta Lynn and Patty Loveless, plus a Southern-style dinner.
  • Guided tours of historic Louisville, the paddocks at Churchill Downs and local thoroughbred farms.

In addition to the taxpayer tab, a group of connected lobbyists are soliciting donations of up to $25,000 for the NCSL’s “President’s Fund,” which will pay for “extensive travel around the United States” for NCSL officials - including Moore’s trip to the Bluegrass State. The fund will also cover costs for “legislative leaders, international delegates and private sector partners” to attend the Louisville event, according to the fund-raising request, a copy of which was obtained by the Herald.

NCSL cash is also used for workshops and seminars held year-round across the country. “It supports the work of the conference . . . and my expenses as president,” Moore said of the fund. “The money doesn’t come to me. It goes to the NCSL.”

A handful of top Bay State lawmakers attend the NCSL confab annually, some of whom have paid $500 registration fees out of their campaign accounts, records show.

Moore, who sits on the NCSL board with lobbyists and corporate titans, said the fund-raising blitz and Kentucky hobnobbing conform with ethics rules.

“The private sector is involved in the work of many organizations, (such as) the Democratic Governors Association (and) the Republican Governors Association,” he said. “Government affairs people from different industries have issues they want to talk about. It’s so we don’t operate in a vacuum.”

Moore was “unaware” of how many local lawmakers will join him in Kentucky; NCSL honchos wouldn’t provide a headcount.

The Kentucky conference also includes daily breakfasts, a “taste of Texas” luncheon, posh dinners, “wellness” walks, bike rides and talks on lighter issues such as horse racing and “managing the political ego.”