The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

June 10, 2014

No laws broken, but it looks wrong

Our front-page news story last Wednesday on the paid lobbying work being done by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello was noticed by many readers. Data on website readership indicated the story from the Better Government Association was read by many and occupied their interest for long periods of time.

Such measures are not so readily obtained on readership of the printed newspaper, but the interest in the Costello story probably was just as strong — if not stronger.

Costello isn’t suspected of breaking the law. There is nothing prohibiting a former U.S.Congressman from working as a paid lobbyist. Costello made a good point in the story by explaining that his knowledge and experience have value to his clients, including those he helped while in Congress.

It wasn’t surprising to learn one of his clients was Boeing, which is paying him $10,000 per month as a lobbyist for the aerospace giant. Costello led a group of Illinois congressman to challenge a decision by the U.S. Air Force to award a $35 billion contract for an aerial refueling tanker to a European company. Eventually the decision was reversed and the contract was awarded to Boeing in 2011, a decision Costello publicly praised.

It also wasn’t terribly surprising to learn Costello is part of a lobbying team being paid $25,000 per month to protect Scott Air Force Base from an impending wave of military base closings. He succeeded in past efforts to ensure the survival of Scott and has a deep and broad pool of knowledge about the air base. Scott is a major economic engine for all of Southern Illinois and the region’s business community is wise to protect the air base, wise to hire the best possible lobbyists.

What’s troubling about Costello and other former lawmakers quickly switching gears between public service and lobbying for causes they supported in office is the appearance of impropriety. It looks like payment today for past services

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