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Our View: Lobbyists prove system is broken

Published: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The McHenry County Board earlier this month renewed its nearly $100,000 contract with its Washington, D.C., lobbying firm.

Under the deal, the Ferguson Group received a one-year, $82,000 contract, with the option to extend an additional two years with annual increases not to exceed 6 percent.

The hope of the board is that maintaining the lobbyist group will add to county government’s presence in Washington, in addition to working with the county’s two U.S. representatives – Peter Roskam (R-6) and Randy Hultgren (R-14) – and two U.S. senators – Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk.

Opposition to renewing the contract – five board members voted against doing so – cited the cost and a lack of proof regarding the amount of money Ferguson has secured for McHenry County as reasons against continuing the relationship. John Jung, R-Woodstock, said the county has paid Ferguson about $600,000 since 2005 and has received $4.6 million back in federal funds, although how much of that is a result of Ferguson’s efforts is not clear.

Are there better ways for the county to spend that many taxpayer dollars? Sure. Hiring lobbyists to secure money or favorable policy, however, has become the price of playing poker.

If there is anger to throw around in this scenario, it shouldn’t be pointed at the County Board. It should be directed at the rules for playing the political game.

“The system itself is wrong,” said board member John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake.

Indeed, a system where money and influence hold more power than right or wrong is broken. A system where taxpayer dollars can be used to pay lobbyists to fight against policy that would benefit taxpayers is broken.

Until government is fixed, spending large sums of money to buy influence and funding is necessary evil for those dependent on a broken system.

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