Top Federal Prosecutor Vows Crackdown On Corrupt State Legislators


She says she believes state lawmakers – many of whom work part time and are paid only stipends – are no match for the full-time lobbyists who are armed with big budgets to entertain and attempt to curry favor.

That's a formula, she said, "by which the lobbyists, usually [working] for corporations, are represented far better than ordinary citizens."

It is a dynamic that many lawmakers attending the conference in Louisville did not want to see on ABC News. The five students were repeatedly asked to put away their cameras at parties and dinners being thrown for state lawmakers. One lobbyist explained: "We normally don't allow media at these events because elected officials get worried and they are all running campaigns and I know you probably have that [camera] on."

Lawmakers being escorted on a private "VIP tour" of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat museum became alarmed when they discovered an ABC News reporter was tagging along. An NCSL staffer demanded that ABC News hand over the tapes.

An NCSL spokesman later objected to the students' reporting in an email sent this week. Gene Rose, the organization's communications director, characterized the group as "extremely transparent."

He also wrote that NCSL "does not sponsor, endorse or otherwise encourage participation in events outside of our schedule. This distinction is very important if you are going to incorporate video taken outside of our scheduled events."

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Student journalist Nadia Sussman of the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism asked the organization's most recent ex-president, Georga state Sen. Don Balfour, whether he had any concerns about appearances, holding lavish events at a time when people are facing furloughs in their states.

"I will tell you absolutely not," Balfour said. "When you go to a conference, for four days, no one expects me to be 24 hour a day, all four days, in a meeting room."

It was at one of the outside events -- a late-night party for lawmakers at a downtown Louisville bar -- that student journalists Alyssa Newcomb from Arizona State found herself cornered and kissed by a legislator from Puerto Rico, Jorge Navarro Suarez. He later said that because he has difficulty understanding English he was just trying to get close so he could hear her better over the noise of the party.

Reporter Threatened With Golf Club

Another event not on the NCSL schedule was a golf outing for Alabama lawmakers hosted by a top state lobbyist. When student journalist Dan Lieberman, of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, approached state Rep. Artis J. McCampbell, he clearly did not want the attention.

"And you are out here golfing instead of attending the conference or…" Lieberman asked.

"No, I'm out here, I have nothing to say," McCampbell replied.

When Lieberman restated the question, the Alabama lawmaker pulled out an iron from his golf bag.

"Look," he said, "if you don't want me to take this to you, then leave, leave, leave, leave."

Miller, of the Sunlight Foundation, was alarmed when she heard about the Suarez incident.

"When public officials act in this kind of way it really raises the question of whether they're fit to serve and represent the public," she said.

The 2010 Carnegie Fellows:

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