Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 20, 2013

Editorial: Way to lawmakers' hearts is through stomachs

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Wayne Schmidt and Peter Pettalia are, it seems, hungry guys. But not nearly as ravenous as Frank Foster.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Schmidt, Pattaglia and Foster are among the top 15 state lawmakers in terms of taking free lunches (or breakfasts or dinners) from lobbyists this year.

Schmidt, a Republican who represents Grand Traverse County in the state House, was treated to $1,506 in food and drink in the first seven months of 2013. Pattaglia, a Republican from Presque Isle, edged Schmidt out by a couple nice dinners or maybe a bottle of wine; his total was $1,592.

Compared to Foster, though, they were both on diets. The Petoskey Republican ate and drank a whopping $2,614, tops in the Legislature. That’s $373 a month, more than $10 a day. A year ago, we reported that Schmidt’s total food and beverage tab since 2008 was more than $3.000; Foster’s total since taking office in 2010 was $4,871.

That’s good living.

The amounts could actually be more. Lobbyists don’t have to report spending on food and drink for an individual unless it exceeds $58 in a month, or $350 for a calendar year.

Lobbyists’ spending on food and beverages is up 37 percent from 2012; $116,698 compared to $85,005.

All of this, of course, is about access. Lobbyists spend big bucks — more than $20 million so far this year — to get one-on-one time with lawmakers to push their employers’ agenda.

Joe Taxpayer is lucky to get a form letter — but then he doesn’t have to buy lunch.