Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Democrat Dwight Drake's exit from the South Carolina governor's race means we won't get to watch an intriguing political conversion. Drake spent his career as a South Carolina super-lobbyist, meaning that he understands the issues facing the state and knows the state's political powerbrokers.
But, that also means that for most of his career he'd used that knowledge not to advocate for what he believed, but rather for what his clients believed. The State's Cindi Ross Scoppe mulled over whether that made Drake unsuitable for public office:
Which brings me to the central problem with Mr. Drake: He has done well for himself by convincing the Legislature to do well for his clients - sometimes to the detriment of our state.
Payday lending leaps to mind. Video poker is not far behind. And though he has been less of a roadblock than other cigarette company lobbyists, I can't dismiss his longtime lobbying to protect the interests of one of our nation's top killers.
The crucial point in our conversation came when I asked if there were any instances where South Carolina would have been better off if he had not been so successful. He thought a moment and then said no. "There are some I've been involved in I wish were more successful," he said. "But everything that I have ever advocated I have been comfortable advocating."
Everything that I have ever advocated I have been comfortable advocating.
It was not the answer I expected.
The most sympathetic perspective is that lobbyists are a valuable part of the democratic process. In this view, every interest deserves an advocate, just as every criminal defendant (no matter how heinous) deserves a lawyer.
The more cynical view is that Drake and other lobbyists could put their intellect and energy into working for what they believe to be right, but instead they decided to be mercenaries.
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