Ralph Foley and John Day wanted to help the state of Indiana even after their careers were over. And so, as they both entered their final terms in the Indiana House of Representatives, Foley (R-Martinsville), and Day (D-Indianapolis) co-sponsored a bill that would prohibit lobbyists’ gifts to individual legislators.
“We thought our parting gift would be to cut off the gifts,” Foley said.
Foley admitted that it was “a bit hypocritical” for him to sponsor such legislation, saying he had previously received gifts from lobbyists and attended functions paid for by interest groups. Such events can actually be good for the legislature, Foley said, if they help to civilize the discourse between Republicans and Democrats. But the gifts, which often include entertainment packages such as trips and recreational outings, can be taken to excess.
“I don’t play golf, which eliminates a lot of temptation, I guess,” Foley said.
Foley (pictured, right) isn’t concerned with legislators being influenced by the trinkets that lobbyists pass out – “Who needs another plastic cup or ballpoint pen?” – but is troubled by the gifts of value, such as free meals and drinks that are offered to lawmakers, along with valuable presents like tickets to sporting events and concerts.
“It’s true,” Foley said. “Legislators sometimes get opportunities that other citizens do not get.”
The lobbyist gift bill was referred to committee, but like many bills entered this session, the proposal was quickly shelved because lawmakers were busy with the battle over “right to work” legislation. After a prolonged conflict, the right to work legislation passed and was signed into law, but not before it “took a lot of oxygen out of the room,” Foley said, leaving little space for other issues, like the lobbyist gift bill.
Foley said that despite the lack of progress for the lobbyist gift ban during this divisive session, he has hope that his and Day’s proposal, or another similar reform package, will soon be back on the table. There will always be a group of lawmakers who want stricter rules on ethics and lobbyist restrictions, he said.
“I have learned: don’t be disheartened when something doesn’t pass,” Foley said. “Who knows what the next wave of reform will bring?”