Bulletin Board
Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
July 18, 1998

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) their contributions.

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 easier.

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 (bribes) contributions.

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 amendment.

For more on campaign finance, go to: http://www.campaignfinance.org/

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