Indiana legislators aren’t supposed to be able to move straight out of lawmaking and into lobbying. The law spelling that out, though, needs another look.
The issue arises because of a case involving former state Sen. Allen Paul, a Republican from Richmond. Paul had been in the Senate for nearly three decades when he gave up his seat in 2014. The very next year, he was knocking down $900 a week working on behalf of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs.
The secretive deal blew up when The Indianapolis Star uncovered details early last year, but by that time, Paul had been paid more than $150,000 to promote the department’s agenda among his former colleagues.
The Indiana Lobby Registration Commission fined both the department and the temporary employment agency Paul had been working for. It also instructed Paul to register as a lobbyist, but he refused.
The commission then turned the matter over to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, noting that failing to register as a lobbyist and violating the one-year cooling-off period were both Level 6 felonies, each carrying up to two and a half years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The prosecutor’s office, though, declined to take action, basically passing the ball back to the commission.
“The role of our agency is limited to prosecuting suspected criminal activity,” the prosecutor’s spokesman, Michael Leffler, told The Star in an email. “However, it is not our role to determine if other potential consequences or administrative sanctions are appropriate.”
And there we sit.
Paul actually voted on this measure as a sitting senator and then turned around and violated it after leaving office. The agency charged with enforcing this law says the prosecutor should take action. The prosecutor says no.
The commission says Paul was acting as a lobbyist. Paul says he was acting as a consultant.
Someone needs to figure this out, and it might well be Paul’s former colleagues in the Indiana General Assembly.
There was a reason lawmakers enacted this prohibition. It’s unseemly for our public officials to leave their elected positions and immediately begin cashing in on all the friendships they made at taxpayers’ expense. The one-year cooling-off period seems only reasonable.
If the law now in place isn’t adequate to send that message, lawmakers need to take steps to fix it. Taxpayers should demand that they do.