Blow It Up
Ahem. Is this thing on? Happy Thanksgiving! — Pach
WaPo fronts this new sherriff in town bit:
Democrats' Victory Is Felt On K Street
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 23, 2006; A01
The Democrats' takeover of Congress this month has turned official Washington upside down.
Labor and environmental representatives, once also-rans in congressional influence, are meeting frequently with incoming Democratic leaders. Corporations that once boasted about their Republican ties are busily hiring Democratic lobbyists. And industries worried about reprisals from the new Democrats-in-charge, especially the pharmaceutical industry, are sending out woe-is-me memos and hoping their GOP connections will protect them in the crunch.
Democratic lobbyists prospected for new clients on the very night last week that House Democrats elected their leaders on an anti-lobbyist platform. Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.) were feted on the 10th and ninth floors, respectively, at 101 Constitution Ave. NW, a premier lobbying venue at the foot of Capitol Hill. Some of the city's top firms are in that building, including the lobbying arm of Goldman Sachs, the American Council of Life Insurers, Clark Consulting Federal Policy Group and Van Scoyoc Associates.
Hoyer's political action committee financed his reception in a room routinely used for lobbying and other events, but Clyburn's was paid for by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, a South Carolina-based law firm that lobbies extensively in Washington on health care and other issues and has offices in that building.
Dozens of lobbyists attended both functions and shuttled from one party to the other. "The elevators were jammed," said Gwen Mellor, a Democrat at the lobbying firm PodestaMattoon, who collected business cards that evening.
We cannot have a representative democracy while the $2+ billion dollar lobbying industry continues to perform legal bribery against the interests of voters. Corporations don't vote, but they do make investments, when they see results. Campaign contributions are the easiest way to corrupt our democracy, something any Democrat should oppose. Fortunately, Sten Hoyer, the K-Street favorite, has "pledged" to support an end to this subversion of democracy:
There are conflicting messages coming from the election. On one hand, more than 100 Democratic members of the next Congress have already gone on record in support of "clean elections" – public financing – for congressional races, including the incoming House majority leader, Steny H. Hoyer from Maryland's 5th Congressional District. Modeled on successful laws in seven states and two cities, clean elections force candidates to spend more time listening to voters than to campaign donors. Participating candidates agree to a spending limit and to raise little or no private money. They raise a large number of small donations to qualify for a set amount of public funding. Then the fundraising is over. A system like this revolutionizes who can run for public office and what they do after they get there.
On the other hand, congressional Democrats' fundraising has hit all-time highs. According to the Federal Elections Commission, 38 of the top 50 fundraising challengers were Democrats, 11 of whom raised more than $2 million. Democratic challengers had nearly a 3 to 1 fundraising advantage over Republican challengers, though that was largely due to the Republicans' defensive electoral posture. Will their fundraising prowess color their perception on the nature of the problems inherent in the private financing of our elections?
Speaker-to-be Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, has pledged to "sever the ties between lobbyists and legislation" in the first 100 hours of running the House of Representatives in January. The proposed changes are good first steps, as they try to restore ethics and to rein in some of the ways insider lobbyists curry favor. But the proposals don't touch one dollar contributed by lobbyists and special interests to campaigns.
The Democrats ought to think big and ask the Republicans to join them in proposing to publicly finance all congressional elections. It can be paid for with less than what is unaccounted for in Halliburton's Iraq contract. Americans know that, right now, we have the best government money can buy. The problem is with who is doing the buying.
Democrats need to support real campaign reform. Make sure Sten Hoyer doesn't forget his pledge. What should we do with K Street?
Not take it over.
We should blow it (the lobbying industry) up, in order to restore government of the people, by the people and for the people.