David Kirkpatrick at The New York Times examines the difference between the limited progress on ethics and campaign finance reform in Congress, and the sweeping changes being made at the state level to address money in politics scandals and the pressing need for reform.
A former member of the Maryland Assembly, John Hurson, points to the stark contrast between state regulations limiting lawmaker-lobbyist contact and the glaring lack thereof at the federal level:
He was barred from letting a lobbyist buy him a cup of coffee under rules enforced by the Maryland Ethics Commission. Meanwhile, congressmen were flying across the country for golf trips with lobbyists and enlisting them as major fund-raisers for their re-election campaigns.
"It was amusing in a sad kind of way," said Mr. Hurson, who now works as a Washington lobbyist himself, for a cosmetics industry trade group. "At the state level in Maryland a lobbyist can’t even have his name on a campaign flier. And at the federal level some of these guys are basically running campaigns."
The article points to the increasing success of states in winning full public financing systems like those in place in Arizona and Maine. Connecticut is the most recent state to pass the system into law for statewide and legislative offices, and New Jersey is currently considering improvements to its public financing pilot project which debuted in 2005. Maryland is also considering adopting a similar system following it's recent activity to cut the ties between lawmakers and lobbyists.