Legislators’ day jobs

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What do a state legislator and an aspiring actor have in common?

Neither one can afford to quit his day job — and that can be bad news for the public. A new report from the CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY charges that the personal and professional ties to industry maintained by many state legislators make them ripe for conflicts of interest.

Unlike congressional seats, most state legislative positions are part-time, with average annual salaries of only $18,000. That’s generally not enough to pay the bills, so most legislators have some other job as well, and all too often that job is in an industry regulated by the state legislature.

Some legislators argue that this makes for better law: Who better to regulate an industry than someone who knows it? Maybe so, but some of that law-making makes you wonder. Two legislators in Nebraska pushed for legislation to increase compensation to lottery retailers, taking the money from funds earmarked to pay for education, the environment, and even treatment programs for gambling addiction. The legislators were themselves lottery retailers.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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