Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's the Money, Stupid

Abramoff Week has been interesting, to say the least. It's quite a feat to span the country with your crime spree, which leads me to believe Jacko has more staying power than, say, the Downing Street Memos. While equally damning, there's something about buying a company without any real cash, pilfering it with abandon, then starring at the ceiling whistling while the guy you bought it from gets snuffed, that has all the guilty appeal of good trashy novel. Mickey Spillane, anyone?

When Jacko went to Washington, however, is when the sex scene hit. Who need rules in today's Washington, anyhow? Jest goin' wid da flow, kid. This Washington iz open fer da bidness, doncha know. I gots me some gen-u-wyne goods here, and all I needs is a little grease. Bend over, baby, it's votin' time!

Quite the page turner, eh?

If there is anyone out there who doesn't get how completely Jacko is about to screw Washington, here's a primer:

Since 1998, the amount of money spent on lobbying has doubled.

Lobbying in 2004 ran to 3 billion. That's about twice what we spent on campaign finance. Herring, anyone?

"Our report reveals that each year since 1998 the amount spent to influence federal lawmakers is double the amount of money spent to elect them." -- Roberta Baskin, Center for Public Integrity

Approximately 250 former agency heads and members of congress are lobbyists. It pays, apparently, quite well.

And the paperwork? Oy Vey. Nearly 14,000 documents that should have been filed are missing; nearly 300 individuals, companies or associations lobbied without first registering; more than 2,000 initial registrations were filed after the allowable time frame; 210 out of 250 top lobbying firms failed to file one or more required document; and in more than 2,000 instances, lobbyists never filed the required termination documents at all. -- Center for Public Integrity, Lobby Watch

The fourth estate is cottoning nicely to their role of enablers. It's almost sickening. We saw 10 stories on campaign finance for every one about lobbying. Makes you wonder if the press is dining and hitting the links, too. Thank God for blogs.

Lobbyists spend a lot of time on the hill, with 17,300 companies lobbying the House, and a mere 17,200 lobbying the Senate. By comparison, a measly 2,000 companies lobby the Whitehouse. Must be why George has time for so many vacations. What a relief. I thought it was a question of attention span.

During the day, I spend my time keeping books. You keep books long enough, and accounting patterns emerge. Corporations develop their own cultures. Some are very above board, others put the payment amount in tiny type and the payment plus the penalty in big type. I always assume bottom line projections reflect the profit center resulting from holding all the money of the customers who don't pay attention. I feel pretty confident in that culture, it'd be up to the customer to notice they paid too much.

What's happening in Washington is a culture, too. We've got legislators who can influence direction, and corporations who want a variety of things that will enable them to make more money. Regrettably, these things often pollute, adversely effect the economic prosperity of workers or the prosperity of a country dependant on a robust middle class. Are all corporations bad? Hardly. But for some (Lockheed Martin, Altria Group, AT&T, Verizon, PhRMA), there's a definite culture at work, and in the last six years they've lobbied their asses off. (Can you hear me NOW?) I'll repeat it: Since Clinton, the amount of money lobbyists spend to influence votes in Washington had doubled. Doubled.

Things grow in a receptive environment. When something doubles in size rapidly, the culture must be conducive for it to do so.

Rapid, unchecked growth burns out. Maintaining the pace forever is just too much; the organism can't support it. Washington has been in a free-for-all state for too long; it's gotten sloppy. The real gift here is that so many lobbyists are former politicians; this group knows how to cut a deal.

Hellooo, Jacko. Wanna do lunch?

When the party busts up, we'll have a finite window to fix it. Sitting politicians will make the former politicians turned lobbyists out as the bad guys, but I think that's, in the vernacular, a load of hooey. So should you. When you pull a piece of meat out the fridge and it's green, do you assume the rot is just on the surface, or do you throw the whole mess away as a bad risk?

We're dealing with green meat, and the green money that drives it. As long as the next election is the whipping post every politician is tied too, the will of corporations will take precedence over the will of the people.

So, here's my two-cent solution. One Term and Out. President, 6 years. Senator, 8 years. Rep, 4 years. One shot at the money. No re-election campaigns, no need to raise insane amounts of money, no need to cut deals today for war chest cash tomorrow. Stagger elections so the congress is populated with new and experienced people, but no lifers. The original concept of Civil Service was to attract smart, patriotic people to "serve" a term for the country and then get back to their business. Coupled with campaign finance reform (that doesn't attempt to muzzle blogs while letting bought and paid for corporation-style news opine unmolested), One Term and Out could literally change the way Washington does business. Perhaps even put the trust of the American people back into the equation. Make our governance accountable to the people, for the people.

It's not a democracy if your representation is, literally, out to lunch.


At January 11, 2006 10:38 PM, Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

Term limits could well be the answer we need- that and real campaign finance reform.

When people look at public service as a career it isn't public service anymore- just becomes a way to make some money without having a real job.

Great thoughts here Jet.

At January 14, 2006 10:00 AM, Blogger windspike said...

Good thinking - I handn't thought about that short a term, but it could be good.

It seems that career politicians are the easy answer - the public votes with what they know and the politicians grow fat and happy in their posts.

It's time to make the hard choices. one term and out sounds like a viable solution to me. But there has to be more to the reform including the absolving of lobying altogether - and the PAC needs serious reconsideration as well. Ken's got some good thinking on that subject as well.

Blog on
Oh, and by the way thanks to both of you for assistance on my first BIO feature. I had fun. And oh, my, that site is addictive.

At January 16, 2006 7:46 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

Those are some scary numbers! I took special note of the fact that lobbying money has doubled since the Supreme Court chose Bush as our president. Republicans crabbed endlessly about Clinton's ML affair, but a BJ is not nearly as serious as the criminal elements to which this administration panders.

We need to throw out the whole side of beef!

At January 18, 2006 6:36 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

There needs to be a serious change to the power of the purse.
Terms? Fix the purse and the thieving bastards won't be able to buy re-election with the public - the lobbyists aren't the only ones at the troth.

I think it was Twain that saaid that no man that wants to hold public office is fit to hold it.
The money in the system is the proof.

At January 22, 2006 8:58 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

Great blog- and the analogy to green meat is more than apt. Short, one term stints in office would certainly be a strong way of dealing with the rotting spoilage, and what Windspike brought up regarding PAC's needing reconsideration is equally relevant. Your research into the actual numbers during this most corrupt administration is mind boggling.

At January 22, 2006 6:43 PM, Blogger Gothamimage said...

Sorry to differ, but I think any emphasis right now on on lobbying, a consititutionally protected right, no matter how abused,plays into the hands of the GOP by distracting from personal accountability and the violations of law. To discuss lobbying per se, implicates both parties, which is what the WH wants - it want's to spread the misery, confuse the situation, and muddy it. Later on they can defend lobbying on principle by pointing to the Constitution.

Other than that differing perspective, your post was very informative.

At January 23, 2006 6:38 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

That's a tough one, gothimage - because if you look at it in terms of the war on drugs - you've got the dealers of drugs and those that are addicted who take them. Each are likely to be prosecuted according to law. If enticements by fearcely competitive lobbyists doesn't fall in line with a type of drug dealing - in this case the lobbyists are dealing power, an equally addictive drug to some - just look at our mad-with-power president - and it has been proven that some cannot behave responsibly with that kind of inticement or the promise of power that comes with it. It bears looking at - and reigning in. Both CAN be handled simultaneously, however that would involve efficiency, people who knew what they were doing, and those who have only a one term shot to get it right, so they do the right thing first, rather than meandering all over the place with no real value or plan.

At January 25, 2006 9:33 AM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I think the true icing on the cake of the Abramoff case is this: DeLay's career is likely over because of Abramoff's admission of guilt in so many cases, including the ones DeLay has constantly denied.

The main course of this mess is the fact that the GOP has lost one of its biggest private investors. That means that from a grassroots level, they've lost a lot of the money they use to spread their rhetoric, lies and half-truths. That means that they've lost that much control over the way their voters think. I think it's a glorious thing all around. Now if the oil comapnies, pharmaceuticals, chemical companies, mining operations, logging companies etc would just come clean the GOP would be out of business...

At April 29, 2006 7:55 PM, Blogger Michael Linn Jones said...

Very well done, Jet. We have a corporate republic. I'm not sure who or what will chase the moneychangers from the Temple, but Bartlett and Steele warned of this mess long ago in America: What Went Wrong?

Lobbying, constitutional or not, has become a tapeworm to our national health.


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