Gift ban overdue

January 12, 2007 12:00 am

Here's an interesting comparison between Oregon's mainstream news media and the state's lawmakers:

Most mainstream news media, the Baker City Herald included, don't accept gifts from sources.

There are notable exceptions; journalists who work for travel magazines tend to Hoover up all the freebies they can find.

But if you've ever tried to press a baseball cap with your company logo into the hands of a newspaper reporter and received an awkward acceptance, it's because he or she is going to toss that hat in a donation box back at the office (and secretly wishes you hadn't offered at all).

Our industry thinks accepting gifts or letting sources pick up the tab on lunch could create the appearance (or even the real situation) where the source is currying favor with the reporter.

Face it: currying favor is probably why the source offers to buy lunch or give us a hat.

But we're just the folks who report on what is going on.

Heretofore, the lawmakers who actually spend your tax dollars have been accepting lunches (and probably breakfasts and dinners) and sometimes lavish trips to decidedly non-Oregon locales.

Sometimes, as in the case of lawmakers now under investigation by the state's ethics commission, lawmakers even forget to report that these sandwiches were eaten — even if they were ordered in Hawaii, the former Sandwich Islands, on a lobbyist's dime.

The Oregon House's new ban on gifts over $10 is laudable, but it shouldn't have taken a confidence-leveling lobbyist/lawmaker travel scandal to put the ban in place.

Now the Oregon Senate is grappling with how to impose a ban on gifts. They managed to agree lobbyists shouldn't be able to give lawmakers free trips.

It only makes sense: if you represent somebody with business before the Oregon legislature, you shouldn't be able to give the lawmaker anything more elaborate than a ball cap.

Shoot, give them the one the Capitol reporter refused.

But don't expect any favors.