Obama wanted to stop the lobby, too
Wednesday 24 March 2010
Lobbying in the US is as old as the republic, its function enshrined in the first amendment to the constitution guaranteeing the right of the people "to petition the government for a redress of grievances". The petitioning has turned into a massive industry that, like it or not, is an integral part of today's Washington politics. Like many of his predecessors, President Obama came to office vowing to clamp down on the lobbyists to "clean up government". Experience suggests he is unlikely to succeed.
There are tens of thousands of lobbyists, spending anywhere between $3.5bn (£2.3bn) and $10bn a year, depending on what definition is used. They even have their own nickname of "K Street", after the downtown thoroughfare where many leading firms are based.
The more complicated and far-reaching the legislation, the better the business for lobbyists. An estimated 3,000-plus were involved with the healthcare bill that Mr Obama signed into law yesterday, reckoned to be the biggest lobbying bonanza in 25 years.
The conventional image of a lobbyist is of a sleek, well-paid huckster, fattened on Martini lunches, showering members of Congress and their aides with favours of every kind – including help in rounding up campaign contributions – as they try to bend new laws to the liking of their clients in industry, business and finance. Hence the complaints that, in the US, the system is for sale to the highest bidder.
In fact these "special interests" include not only Wall Street banks, pharmaceutical companies and defence contractors – but also environmentalists, gun enthusiasts and advocates of almost every cause under the sun. The problem area is where lobbying becomes corruption. At their best lobbyists channel expert information into the legislative process. At its worst, lobbying is no more than bribery.
Very rarely, though, has it been shown that a member of Congress took money in direct return for a vote. Sometimes payback comes later, as they slip through "the revolving door" and become lobbyists themselves – naturally for much higher salaries. The process, in short, is not black and white, but countless shades of grey.
The amount spent each year by the tens of thousands of US lobbyists.
Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bromance continues: X-Men star gushes about 'pussy cat' BFF Patrick Stewart
David Cameron stung by jellyfish: PM hurt after ignoring advice of locals while on holiday
South Korea ferry: Vice principal rescued from sinking ship found hanged
Catherine Deneuve and Sophie Marceau in war of words over President Francois Hollande's affair with Julie Gayet
Inside North Korea with the man who won the marathon
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 KFC 'sorry' after lesbian couple are kicked out of Bath restaurant for 'heavy petting'
- 2 West Ham confirm 20-year-old striker Dylan Tombides has died after battle with cancer
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 5 PFA Player of the Year: Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard all nominated as Liverpool dominate award shortlist
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...