$500,000 Worth of Wining & Dining for Legislators Reported So Far

State lawmakers were treated to more than $500,000 worth of special luncheons and private receptions this legislative session, says The Tennessean.
Special interest groups and lobbyists, ranging from the Tennessee Concrete Association to the Tennessee Bar Association, hosted 75 events, according to reports filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission.
The most expensive tab was paid by the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, which hosted a “Bell Ringer Country Luncheon” on March 2, which came with a price tag of $23,661.20. According to an invitation filed by the Farm Bureau with the Ethics Commission, the luncheon took place at the Sheraton Hotel.
Critics say the practice of hosting such events for state lawmakers creates an uneven playing field where corporations and special interests have better access to government leaders.
“We’re always dealing with concentrated benefits and distributed costs,” said community activist and tea party leader Ben Cunningham.
“That’s the reality of government. Everybody pays for it, and in many cases the recipients of government largess are small groups, small corporations … who can justify spending huge amounts of money on attaining special favors.
“That’s the nature of the beast.”

(NOTE: The listing of events and the price tag for 2011 is HERE. It’s not complete yet because some interests — Jack Daniel’s distillery and beer wholesalers, for example — have not filed their spending reports.)

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