In one of President Theodore Roosevelt more famous speeches, he declared this:
Now, this means that our government, National and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics. That is one of our tasks to-day. Every special interest is entitled to justice-full, fair, and complete-and, now, mind you, if there were any attempt by mob-violence to plunder and work harm to the special interest, whatever it may be, that I most dislike, and the wealthy man, whomsoever he may be, for whom I have the greatest contempt, I would fight for him, and you would if you were worth your salt. He should have justice. For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.
As I argued here, I believe Alabama Democrats should once again adopt the principles expressed so well by that Republican President. The health of our democracy and the moral legitimacy of our republican institutions demands action.
The reasons were so clearly evidenced during the past few weeks. For instance,:
And then came the release of a new report in the spike in corporate influence and power and representation in the halls of Congress. While the Tea Party members believed their efforts would deliver them a Congress for them in November 2010, corporate special interest actually carried the day as evidenced by a new report by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Government,
In all, the number of lobbyists in Congress has increased more than two-fold between the 111th and 112th Congress, these lobbyists representing a variety of industrial sectors and special interest areas. There’s also a partisan nature to the increase in lobbyists, with an influx of lobbyists working for freshman Republican representatives. Furthermore, several major companies’ former hired guns now work for the very congressional committees they used to lobby.
So while the Tea Party fought for their candidates, it appears the corporate special interest are in the inner sanctum of these new members. The corporate masters are delicately teaching these young padawans the ways of the masters.
But in general, former lobbyists are actually over-represented on the staffs of Republicans in positions as
chiefs of staff and legislative directors, as 55 percent of current members of Congress are Republicans
and 63 percent of former lobbyists working in Congress work for Republicans. . .
However, of the 38 freshman congressional members in the 112th Congress who hired lobbyists, only
two — Blumenthal and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — are Democrats.
Why the 130% increase in lobbyist in critical positions of influence? Power.
According to the report, certain industries’ influence has spiked.
[F]ormer lobbyists are not evenly distributed across all sectors. For example, few former labor lobbyists occupy these high-powered congressional staffer positions, while a large number come from the health, finance, energy and telecommunications sectors. The increase in the number of former lobbyists who represented at least one client in the above sectors is marked, with the percent increase between the two Congresses approaching 300 percent for one sector. Several sectors saw increases of more than 200 percent — notably, transportation, agribusiness, energy, finance and health. The energy sector, in particular, displays a considerable influx in the number of its former lobbyists now working for Congress. The average increase in the number of lobbyists representing the above sectors was 194 percent2 , but the number of lobbyists-turned-staffers who had represented at least one client in the energy sector has skyrocketed. Included in those 41 companies are major international corporations, like BP, but also relatively smaller companies, such as Southern Co.
The lobbyist came directly from the lobbying world, K Street.
As we have shown, Republican freshmen representatives hired a disproportionately large number of former lobbyists. These lobbyists, on average, came straight from “K Street,” the boulevard in Washington, D.C., that is synonymous with the lobbying industry. They stopped lobbying in 2009, and 26 of them filed their last lobbying report in 2010, the year immediately preceding the job they took in the 112th Congress. In short, congressional members are not just hiring run-of-the mill lobbyists. Rather, they are hiring trained, often highly-specialized, influence brokers who may have more experience than the members for whom they work.
These lobbyists have taken temporary “pay-cuts,” too, to “help” these new Tea Party Congressmen.
Legistorm.com, a transparency organization that reports staff positions and salaries for all people employed by Congress, provides information suggesting that some of these reverse lobbyists may have taken major pay cuts to enter the public sector. One excellent example of this phenomenon is Andres, a former lobbyist who earned $419,000 in 2010. Now, according to Legistorm, Andres earned $42,000 between January and March 31, which puts him on track to earn less than half of his previous salary.
I have been taught that the position of influence is actually more important than the position of power. For instance, all through the Bible, God commonly placed his leaders in places of influence instead of positions of power: Daniel, Joseph, Ester, etc. Corporate special interests have now placed their operatives in the back-rooms, in the positions on influence.As the report concludes,
But it may also be the case that these former lobbyists are now in the position to exercise considerable sway over everything from policy outcomes to government contract decisions and anti-trust decisions. Particularly where the issues are complicated and do not drive significant constituent interest, former clients of ex-lobbyists now working in Congress could be well placed to reap the rewards of enhanced access and deeper connections into government’s legislative branch.
As in TR’s day, once again, “now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics.”