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About That “Sex Lobbying” Law

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SHOULD LAWMAKERS HAVE TO DISCLOSE WHEN THEY HAVE SEX WITH LOBBYISTS?

There are three types of lobbyists: Those who get ahead on the strength of their issues and arguments … those who sleep their way to the top … and those who do a little of both.

We know lobbyists at the state and federal level who fall into all three categories …

It’s been said that everything is about sex … expect sex, which is about power.

But what about “power sex” – i.e. lobbyists who sleep with lawmakers (or other government officials) in an effort to get them to vote (or rule) a certain way?  Should such arrangements be disclosed?

That’s the subject of a proposed Missouri law …

On the face, this proposal seems sensible.  Sex, in many cases, is a thing of value.  And old, mostly unattractive men who want to acquire it from young attractive women are indubitably receiving a “thing of value.”

Since laws prohibit (theoretically) lobbyists providing lawmakers with “things of value,” shouldn’t sexual relations be disclosed?

Not always …

“I don’t see why sex is automatically a ‘gift’ to the legislator,” one national consultant told us.  “If a State Representative is hot and she decides to sleep with a craggy old lobbyist, seems to me the lobbyist is getting the better end of the deal.  The assumption is no one in their right mind would sleep with a politician unless they wanted something in return.”

So true …

Of course having lived inside the Nero-esque bubble of the S.C. State House for an extended period of time (and having had quite a lot of sex during that time), we can say that this is the exception to the rule.  Assuming it’s even happened.

Invariably, politician-lobbyist sex involves a thing of value being obtained by the politician from the lobbyist in return for their vote or rule … which would seem to make it the sort of thing that ought to be disclosed.

Here’s the thing, though: We’re libertarians.  We believe that people’s sex lives are their own business.  We also have consistently gone on the record in support of legalizing prostitution.

In other words, we shouldn’t have a problem with any of this behavior … and to some extent we don’t.

Over the years, we’ve developed a pretty simple set of rules to govern our coverage of politicians’ extramarital escapades.

Basically it works like this: If a politician wastes tax money in furtherance of an affair (or promises tax money in connection with an affair), we’re going to write about it.  Oh, and the same standard applies for other official actions.  Similarly, if a politician has passed judgement on other people for their various sexual dalliances – and then engaged in precisely the same behavior – we’re going to write about it.

Waste of tax money, abuse of power or rank hypocrisy are guaranteed to result in stories about affairs … as they should.

Beyond those criteria, though, it’s a judgment call …

These relationships happen all the time.  In fact we know of at least a dozen members of the S.C. General Assembly who are currently involved in less-than-discreet sexual relationships with lobbyists (some with more than one lobbyist).  But up to this point, we’ve been unable to document how any of these relationships have resulted in improper appropriations or other official actions.  And barring the production of such documentation, we don’t see it as our place to expose these affairs …

So: Should government (local, state or federal) impose laws requiring the disclosure of sexual relationships between individuals in power and individuals seeking to influence those in power?  We don’t think so.

But any official who engages in these relationships is playing a very dangerous game … one in which they are either already behaving corruptly or opening the door to allegations of corruption (even if the affair is otherwise an “innocent” liaison).

What do you think?  Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our comments section below …

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