It's the Money, StupidAbramoff 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.