Over the last several decades, the influence of billionaires and other globalists has increased so much in Washington that conservatives may be convinced that our nation’s government no longer serves “the People” the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence so prominently claims to look after.
Throughout the 20th century, a force likely unforeseen by our country’s Founding Fathers has arisen and likely must be eradicated if our Republic is to survive in the manner in which our nation’s architects intended it. This force is composed of the groups and individuals known as Congressional lobbyists, and their sway on government constantly threatens to overwhelm the influence voters have over our nation’s lawmakers.
For as much as voters like to talk about how they choose the president and how much they like (or dislike) his policies, it’s ultimately Congress that creates the laws and often has final say over what becomes statutorily legal and what does not.
How many times have you heard about pork barrel spending and unpopular measures sailing through Congressional chambers without so much as a debate, often in the middle of the night?
Scandalous largesses for ill-advised foreign adventurism and domestic giveaways litter the pages of the Congressional record. Members of Congress continue to get away with passing some of the vilest and most loathed legislation in our nation’s history simply because many voters don’t even bother to learn their local Congressperson’s name, much less information about their background, their voting record or their all-too-cozy relationships with lobbyists who they can count on for reelection campaign dollars.
As low as Congress’ approval ratings are, public acceptance and tolerance for lobbying is outrageously high. Even though there are watchdog groups that list the amounts given to Congresspeople and Senators, many citizens are deluded into thinking that money doesn’t buy a certain amount of political favors.
At the present time, all lobbyists in Washington must register with the government and file quarterly reports detailing how much their clients spend, how much of their time is spent on lobbying efforts and the dollar value of any gifts offered to legislators (explicit gifts of substantial value are generally not allowed).
Currently, there are over 12,000 registered lobbyists in the Washington area. In 2002, the number was higher, but insiders believe that lobbyists use more sophisticated methods these days, making their true influence harder to detect.
Some analysts believe if you add up all of the people related to the industry — besides the official persons who register — the number is closer to 100,000 people. As an industry, lobbyists handle an annual turnover of $9 billion. Since 2014, the amount spent on lobbying by corporations has exceeded that spent by private citizens funding the operation of Congress.
Most lobbyists are lawyers, as are legislators. Thus, they both have a mutual goal of crafting legislation. Sometimes, it’s a matter of what goes into the legislation or how far certain limits can be extended. In some cases, it’s possible or even probable that favors are traded, particularly when a Congressperson or Senator sits on a specific committee.
Successful lobbyists often have worked in Washington for decades, and some are even ex-Congresspeople or Senators themselves (roughly half of all Congresspersons become lobbyists once their career in Congress is over). These men and women will typically cultivate relationships over a long period of time and leverage who they know for measurable political returns.
Certain lawmakers who make access difficult for lobbyists are merely playing games so they can get the corporations hiring the lobbying firms to simply throw in more money. These firms will then organize fundraisers, special commemorative occasions or arrange large donations to see what doors can be “cracked open.”
Sometimes lobbyists will do favors for legislators such as helping to put together political action committees (PACs) or organizing donations from outside sources. Congresspeople typically spend one-third of their time focusing on being reelected; the less of this work they need to do themselves, the more time they can spend on other activities.
Sometimes lobbyists offer Congressional aides lucrative jobs with their firms after their Congressional service ends. This increases the “revolving door” relationships that many political analysts criticize as one of the worst abuses of lobbyists. Such aides, knowing that they may see a much more lucrative payday in the future than working in government then may become more loyal to the lobbying firms than to the Congresspersons they’re serving. In situations like this, as legendary convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff said, “we owned them.”
And of course, once one lawmaker is persuaded to change their stance or their vote, they can be used to try to persuade others to make the same decision. Common committee memberships, relationships to higher-level figures or party affiliations help with this. Lobbyists usually try to seek out legislators with the most power, as their influence over other lawmakers and legislation in general is like the effect of a magnet on metal.
In addition to trying to sway legislators, lobbyists also try to manipulate public opinion via the press or “astroturf” organizations (this latter term refers to groups which at first glance might seem to be drawn from “grassroots” constituents, but in fact are overtly or covertly funded by corporate interests). The goal is to try to persuade, cajole, badger or otherwise convince a legislator that voting a certain way or taking a certain stance is in the public interest — even if it patently is not.
“Plausible deniability” can become a standard technique in these cases, with distortions, half-truths, misinformation and scare tactics being used indiscriminately. While money cannot flow directly into a lawmaker’s pockets, it can go to causes and organizations they support or have an interest in. Skilled lobbyists often learn over time how much it can or will take to turn a politician “on” to a particular position.
While lobbying is mostly seen as a scourge by the public these days, the close relationships of the people involved and the revolving door methods cultivated by lobbying firms make this pestilence nearly impossible to expel. It can safely be said that if the Founding Fathers were to see to what extent lobbying is being practiced in Washington today, they would be spinning in their graves.
Given the decreasing influence (and some would say apathy) the public has now regarding the legislative process, it may be high time to enact a Constitutional amendment to outlaw all Congressional lobbying entirely. To be sure, the majority of lawmakers would zealously oppose such an Amendment (on free speech grounds, naturally) and would likely fight it tooth and nail.
Surveys show that up to 93 percent of the public supports a ban on Congressional lobbying by profit-making entities. But even if it were possible to enact such a ban, it might have to be given teeth by delegating a government agency the power to audit members of Congress (and possibly even their families) to make sure that money didn’t get through all the legal barriers.
In China, Communist officials are executed if they’re found guilty of corruption. But that hasn’t stopped many officials in the Middle Kingdom from getting rich via bribes, favors, undeclared taxes and illicit fees. There was a recent case where a Chinese billionaire named Guo Wengui now living in New York threatened to expose some of this corruption among relatives of high Communist officials. Almost unbelievably, this threat brought about the removal of the exiled man’s profile from Facebook at the behest of the Chinese government.
If an American company can’t be trusted to expose the dirty laundry of a foreign regime, how can we expect the notoriously biased mainstream media to support citizens’ efforts to unmask and uncover such behavior here in the United States?
For now, conservatives need to focus on electing candidates who are committed to changing the corrupt ways of Washington and penalizing or even recalling those who turn their back on such promises after they’re elected. Banding together and being vocal about such efforts are the only ways that our representatives in Congress will get the message that enough is enough and our country isn’t beholden to billionaires.