He Who Pays The Piper . . .
Democracy as it really is
The following is reproduced from the July 19, 1998 edition of Doug Fiedor's
Heads Up (See Archives - Politics,
Oct. 16, 1997) It makes enough sense to me to want to give it a wider airing.
According to a joint study by the Associated Press and the Center for Responsive
Politics, there are 14,484 registered lobbyists on Capitol Hill. That is, lobbyists
on Capitol Hill outnumber Members of Congress 27 to 1. These special interest
lobbyists spend one-billion one-hundred seventy million dollars a year to lobby
Congress. And, those are only the professional lobbyists who publicly admit
to their activities.
The Washington Times reported that the most heavily lobbied issues last year
were the federal budget, taxes, health, transportation, and defense. Spending
a whopping $17.1 million, the biggest spender last year was the American Medical
Association. Within industry categories, telecommunications was the biggest
spender at $63.96 million. The pharmaceutical industry spent $59.7 million for
lobbying; oil and gas, $51.7 million; defense, $40 million; the automobile industry,
$34.6 million; and business groups, $24.6 million.
On average, about $21.9-million is spent annually lobbying each Member of Congress.
And the above numbers do not include Political Action Committee campaign contributions,
issue orientated advertising and other such multimillion dollar incidentals.
Anyone see a problem here yet? Because, folks, the above numbers have nothing
whatsoever to do with what the individual voters back home kick in to the Congressional
campaign funds. All the above was business, union, State and local government
money. Foreign government lobbying money is in there too, of course. But don't
look for foreign government accountings because such spending is illegal. So,
unlike China, most foreigners have some very sophisticated ways of hiding (money-laundering)
The functions of the lobbyist are many, but they all revolve around influencing
the vote of Members of Congress. This always includes paying for the votes through
contributions to campaign (and other) funds, of course. But it can also include
actually writing bills to be introduced in Congress, holding special "meet
and greet" parties and outings for Members of Congress and, of course,
sponsoring those ever-present campaign fund-raisers.
Do we need campaign finance reform? Definitely. But it would probably be a
good idea if sitting politicians and currently active lobbyists did not have
a hand in crafting such reform.
There is a way, but it's not easy to pull off properly.
All politicians should get their campaign funds, 100% of their campaign funds,
from voting constituents in their district. Those not registered to vote should
not be allowed to contribute to campaign funds. Furthermore, the maximum contribution
allowable should be $1,000 per registered voter. Any registered voter in the
district should be able to help in an election campaign, just not for pay (excepting
those few paid by the campaign funds).
Such an arrangement would make Members of Congress rather attentive to the
people in their districts. It would also allow new blood to get elected more
often as they would be home and in position to collect campaign contributions
Paid professional lobbyists should be outlawed. Any person may lobby any member
of government, so long as they are not paid to do so -- or promising campaign
The federal government was, after all, intended to be a representative government.
No more should well-funded lobbyists representing whatever from a state a thousand
miles away from your district have the ear of your Member of Congress to propose
projects (and laws) you and others in your district may not agree with. There
could still be some such requests from time to time, but all constituents would
at least be on equal footing with the out of district interlopers. And that
$1.17-billion currently spent on lobbying Capitol Hill every year can be distributed
to corporation shareholders, union members and/or taxpayers where it belongs.
The problem with the above scheme is that it would probably require a Constitutional
For more on campaign finance, go to: http://www.campaignfinance.org/