As everybody knows there are three branches of government: the executive (the President), the legislative (Congress) and the judicial (Supreme Court). But wait there's a fourth branch: the lobbyist. In fact the lobbyist branch has a membership which is 25.8 times the number of Congressmen! In addition to being the largest branch of government, The lobbyist branch is also the branch which funds the legislative branch and writes most of the legislation. The total spent on lobbying in 2009 was $3.49 billion. Lobbyists are responsible directly or indirectly for funding political campaigns of Congressmen and represent an industry that employs Congressmen when they leave "public service" to spend more time with their families, a time well provided for by not only Congressional pensions but by lucrative jobs lobbying their former colleagues in Congress.
There were 11,140 lobbyists in Washington in April 2010. It's like old home week as former Congressional colleagues reunite with their peers currently serving in Congress. There is a lot of back slapping and glad handing going on. According to the Washington Post:
The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.
The tactic is so widespread that three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post's analysis.
Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups. At least 10 others have been members of Congress, such as former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), both of whom represent a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm.
The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.
The push has reunited many who worked together in government on health-care reform, but are now employed as advocates for pharmaceutical and insurance companies.
A June 10 meeting between aides to Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and health-care lobbyists included two former Baucus chiefs of staff: David Castagnetti, whose clients include PhRMA and America's Health Insurance Plans, and Jeffrey A. Forbes, who represents PhRMA, Amgen, Genentech, Merck and others. Castagnetti did not return a telephone call; Forbes declined to comment.
Also inside the closed committee hearing room that day was Richard Tarplin, a veteran of both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Senate, where he worked for Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), one of the leaders in fashioning reform legislation this year. Tarplin now represents the American Medical Association as head of his own lobbying firm, Tarplin Strategies.
"For people like me who are on the outside and used to be on the inside, this is great, because there is a level of trust in these relationships, and I know the policy rationale that is required," Tarplin said in explaining the benefits of having government experience.
But public interest groups and reform advocates complain that the concentration of former government aides on K Street has distorted the health-care debate, and that it further illustrates the problem posed by the "revolving door" between government and private firms.
"The revolving door offers a short cut to a member of Congress to the highest bidder," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiled some of the data used in The Post's analysis. "It's a small cost of doing business relative to the profits they can garner."
Aides to Baucus and other lawmakers bristle at any suggestion of special treatment for former staff members. Baucus spokesman Scott Mulhauser said the senator "remains committed to working with a variety of stakeholders" as the Finance Committee attempts to come up with a bill this summer.
One of the biggest sellouts is Dick Gephardt, former liberal Democratic Congressman.
In 2003 he harshly condemned corporate crime, which he said "ruined people's lives for selfishness and greed," and launched his candidacy claiming, "Every proposal I'm making, every idea I'm advancing has a single, central purpose: to revive a failing economy and give working Americans the help and security they need." So why, six years later, was he on Capitol Hill representing one of the biggest players in the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression? And further, why was he recently working for Visa to kill credit card reform, helping Peabody Energy stymie climate change legislation and consulting for UnitedHealth Group alongside Tom Daschle to block meaningful healthcare reform?
Gephardt is representative of a breed who talks the talk, but can't resist that good corporate money to lobby former colleagues to do the exact opposite of what he advocated when he was appealing to voters in his reelection campaigns. These guys are such hypocrites, it's unbelievable. Rather than do something productive and humane in their later years, they go all in for the money. They're so corrupt and venal, but it's all perfectly legal so I'm sure they comfort themselves with that sentiment and rest peacefully in the knowledge that they are providing a large nestegg for their family as if their pension were not enough. I used to like Gephardt. He served as House Majority Leader and House Minority Leader. In other words he was high up there in the Democratic leadership. Then once out of Congress he lobbies for United Health Care and Goldman Sachs. What a pathetic hypocrite!
And then there's nepotism. A lot of relatives of Congressmen are paid to lobby Congress fattening the exchequers of the family budgets.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported that at least 28 members of Congress have close relatives working as Washington lobbyists, some without experience. GOP Sen. Trent Lott’s son, Chet, managed pizza restaurants and played polo before becoming a telecommunications lobbyist. The family of Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., includes his wife, Linda, an aviation lobbyist; his daughter-in-law, Jill, a lobbyist for companies such as Aetna and Blue Cross; and his son, Nathan, a former labor union lobbyist.
It's All in the Family as wives and children of Congressmen are hired as lobbyists and the Senator or Congressman himself becomes one as soon as he leaves "public service" for the "private sector."
And then there is the saga of Tom Daschle who Obama wanted to be his health care czar. The problem was Daschle had a little problem with paying his taxes after leading the good life, thanks to a friend, and getting free carfare. But Daschle didn't lobby; he merey adised!
That is the story of Tom Daschle, the former Senator and Obama's pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is the guy who will fix health care, once his embarrassing tax issues are dealt with. All because a rich friend of his gave him millions of dollars to sit on the board of his media company that, oddly, had no business with the government. And also his friend let him use his Cadillac and driver for free, whenever he was out of town, and Daschle didn't pay taxes on that, because who knew?
And so Daschle's accountant finally told him that he owed $150 grand in taxes, on that car, but he can afford it because his rich friend's investment firm gave Daschle $2 million to raise money and sit on the board, with other former lawmakers and random notable political types.
Oh, and Daschle also worked for a Washington law firm that had as clients lots of groups doing government business, but Daschle didn't lobby, he just, you know, advised. And then a student loan company sent him to the Bahamas! That is what they're doing with our money! Christ! If it weren't for the fact that Tom Daschle is going to fix health care, we'd be really upset with him.
And so a couple Republican Senators attempting to tarnish Obama's "ethical and open" image, and his lobbyist ban, will stall Daschle's nomination for a little while, because he is a former Senator, and former Senators are rich people, and rich people don't pay taxes.
These guys are so venal, it's unbelievable. The whole Republican party and about a third of the Democrats are totally bought and sold by corporate interests. They get huge campaign donations to legislate public policies that favor their paymasters, the corporations. Their wives and children get hired by the same corporations and paid outrageous salaries. And then when they "retire", they really cash in. They start law firms whose business it is to lobby their former colleagues to enact laws that benefit the corporations that are paying them. This is where the real power in Washington is - not with the people, but with the corporations and their lobbyists who are the fourth branch of the Federal government.
The US is not a democracy; it's a plutocracy - government by the rich and powerful monied interests. How many average citizens are represented in Washington by a lobbyist, let alone by an army of them? It's obscene to think that millions of dollars are spent on these people whose whole purpose in life is to argue against any effective regulation of the corporations they represent and to give favorable tax treatment, perks and benefits to them. Military-industrial complex lobbyists argue for more money for the defense contractors they represent. Oil corporation lobbyists lobby for more favorable subsidies and benefits for oil companies. Every gigantic monopoly corporate interest spends millions of dollars on lobbyists to keep government money, tax breaks and lack of regulation coming their way. The deunionization of the US effectively guarantees that the average person will not have his or her interests represented in Washington. These same corporations spend millions brainwashing the American public through TV advertising in order to get them to vote in the interests of the corporations and against their own self-interests. The news media is bought off by the lucrative advertising and by all the money they make from campaign commercials.