Lobbying. I ran across the Open Secrets website while I was researching something else, and it led me down the lobbying rabbit hole. I thought this worth sharing.
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence business and government leaders to create legislation or conduct an activity that will help a particular organization. People who do lobbying are called lobbyists.
And from Britannica [ https://www.britannica.com/topic/lobbying ]
Most legal scholars and judges consider lobbying to be protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Nevertheless, the federal government and a majority of the states regulate lobbying. Most such laws, including the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act (1946), require that lobbyists register and report contributions and expenditures and that groups whom they represent make similar reports.
The efficacy of those laws is doubtful, however. Especially difficult to regulate is any kind of indirect lobbying—such as group activity designed to influence government by shaping public opinion.
It should be clear to almost anybody that lobbying is wildly out of control, like a metastasizing cancer. Just look at the amount of money that’s being spent every year by lobbyists. Right now, it’s about up to 3 ½ billion dollars (yes, with the B) per year.
And of course, lobbying in its present form is corruption writ large on the political landscape. In any country.
Let’s have just a brief discussion about the revolving door. This is where senior people in government service get hired by lobbying firms after leaving said government service.
Many of the numbers below come from www.represent.us
Today around 50% of senators and 42% of representatives become lobbyists after leaving Congress. Members of Congress who become lobbyists see their salaries increase on average 1,452%.
From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers (generals and admirals) went to work as consultants or defense executives, according to the Globe analysis. That compares with less than 50 percent who followed that path a decade earlier, from 1994 to 1998. [ http://archive.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/12/26/defense_firms_lure_retired_generals/ ]
This article is truly depressing. It almost makes me ashamed to say that I was ever in the military. And of course, in addition to getting their retirement from the military (which US tax dollars are paying for of course), they are now making 3 – 5 times what that retirement income is on top of that. And, even a very brief Internet search, revealed that there seemed to be similar problems with the military revolving door in places like the United Kingdom, and the EU. Probably in every country that has a military and politicians of course, but some places it will never get reported.
I did run across a grassroots effort to try to pass something called the American Anti-Corruption Act. I have included some links below. One can only hope that it might in fact work out.
The American Anti-Corruption Act enacts a broad base of reforms to put the kibosh on conflicts of interest, including provisions that:
- Limit lobbyist donations and stop lobbyist-sponsored fundraising.
- Close “The Revolving Door.”
- Prevent politicians from taking money from special interests they regulate.
Trump in January 2017 apparently did sign an executive order banning administration officials from lobbying, but it seems like a very lackluster measure, frankly. For one, it doesn’t apply to anybody who enter office before he did. What the hell good is that? And, it only seems to apply to the executive branch. What about everywhere else? There is a link to actual text below.
I actually read it. I can’t believe he thinks this really serves as any effective measure against the ‘Revolving Door’ culture. It just looks like an additional bit of theater so that he can say that he’s keeping a campaign promise. Because the actual implementation of this, as far as I can see, means very little indeed.
The Princeton Review website actually has a sad (from my point of view) summary of the ‘career’ of a lobbyist. And it isn’t a satire, unfortunately.
I wish I had more encouraging news. The grassroots movement for the American Anti-Corruption Act certainly seems like a good step, but who knows how far that will go. After all, the people (not just in the United States, but all over the world) who benefit from the whole lobbying ecosystem, are the only ones who have the power to change the laws. And why would they do that? Unless, of course, through a grassroots movement like the one above. I wish it every success.
Stay tuned for an upcoming article on the psychological profile of people in government.