Ethics reform: Good idea, tough reality

Published 8:47 pm Friday, April 23, 2010

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne on Friday upped the ante in his quest for ethics reform in state government.

His “High Road to Ethics Reform” package would do everything from give the Alabama Ethics Commission subpoena power to ban PAC-to-PAC transfers and pass-through pork to extend a “double-dipping” ban to all levels of state government.

It is, in short, an impressive list of reforms. On paper.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The key lies, of course, in turning those proposed reforms into reality.

And if Byrne is elected governor, he will have to get his ethics reform passed by the Legislature – ironically, the same body of people most likely to feel the pinch from the reforms.

Currently, lobbyists can spend $250 a day on legislators, with no public disclosure. Byrne’s proposals would end that, requiring lobbyists to disclose all spending.

Sounds reasonable, no? But a popular vote among legislators? No way.

We agree that ethics reform is necessary throughout state government, as we suspect most Alabamians would agree.

And, calling for that reform is a smart political move for any candidate. It fits well with Byrne’s track record and his platform.

And he is perhaps one of the few candidates willing to push hard and loud for reform, which is admirable.

But the gap between a call for reform and the implementation of real reform can be tremendous. And bridging that gap will take political savvy, a public outcry and perhaps a miracle or two in Montgomery.