Range lawmaker to balance legislating with lobbying

Can a Minnesota lawmaker be both a legislator and head of a lobbyist organization?

Sen. David Tomassoni , a Chisholm DFLer, has been named the executive director of Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS), the Mesabi Daily News reports. His salary was not revealed.

He will take a leave of absence from the job during the session, when the group will hire a lobbyist to fill in for him.

Aaron J. Brown, who writes at Minnesota Brown, writes today that the move is legal, but it’s not ethical.

This is a clear conflict of interest. Further, and more importantly, it’s the formalization of a troubling trend in Iron Range political leadership that’s been building for a generation. Who are our elected leaders? Who are the lobbyists? Are things being done for money? For friendship? For power? The earthy world of Old School Iron Range political organization had a place in the 20th Century, when workers had no allies in fighting for their rights. That tradition, however, has now been wholly coopted by monied forces to preserve monied interests.

Political watchers often lament the cozy relationship between lobbyists and elected officials. Lobbyists often seem like furniture in the offices of state legislators from both parties. We grumble when former lawmakers cash out their connections and influence as lobbyists after leaving office. Since 1980, every outgoing state senator from the Iron Range has signed on as a registered lobbyist. But what’s happening here with Sen. Tomassoni essentially ends the distinction between lobbying and serving in public office.

“RAMS has been a strong and effective voice for the best interests of the people of the Iron Range for decades. I look forward to continuing that tradition of ‘One Range…One Voice’ and to engage the public and communities to advance our common concerns for the betterment of our cities, townships, schools, and counties,” Tomassoni said in a news release announcing his hiring.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I believe a somewhat similar arrangement led former Rep. Steve Gottwalt to resign. He was hired as a lobbyist by a place largely dealing with national health care issues, if memory serves.

  • joetron2030

    Ugh. Pick one and leave the other.