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Lobbyists, Big Money, and Big Government

(Photo by Robin Holland)

In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with veteran reporter Robert Kaiser of the WASHINGTON POST about the rise of lobbyists – and what they’re up to – on Capitol Hill.

In telling the story of the first modern earmark – a nutrition research center at Tufts University – Kaiser noted that, contrary to popular opinion, lobbyists often promote projects that are in the public interest. Problems emerge, he suggested, because the lobbying process prevents fair competition for scarce public funding.

“The essence of the earmark system [is] the Congressman gets the credit, because the fix is in. The lobbyist gets the money, because he got the fix in. It’s a wonderful system, it pleases everybody, but it doesn’t create a fair, competitive, open system.”

Bill Moyers asked if big money lobbying is inherently part of America’s large federal government.

“What about the fact that some people who defend the system, or explain the system, say that it was when liberal government arose in the New Deal, and Washington began throwing money at so many problems, that it became just a fact of life that there was money to be made by trying to help connect people who needed money with government money that was available?”

Kaiser said:

“When the government spends so much money, we have to be ready to see the potential recipients of that money troop to town and look for their share... There’s no avoiding this, you know? And it’s important to say that lobbying is protected in the same First Amendment to the Constitution that you and I like for journalistic implications. The right to petition the government for redress of grievances is right there in the First Amendment, and that’s lobbying. That’s true that the big government means big spending, means big opportunities, means business for lobbyists, so it’s inevitable.”

What do you think?

  • Is lobbying a good or bad thing?

  • Is big money lobbying inherently part of having a large, centralized federal government? Why or why not?

  • Do you think a policy should be devised to try to limit the influence of Washington lobbyists? If so, what means would you suggest?

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    Lobbyists will spend money, legislators will take it. But can the process be made more transparent? It seems a full time job for me to find out who has given loads of money to my legislators (Kerry, Kennedy, Oliver), and to know who is behind the fancy names of front groups.
    The link between payments and support is almost never mentioned in reporting.
    Thanks for at least occasionally digging into the subject.

    Perhaps I should have read this whole article to see if my comment has already been covered; however, I'll take a leap and say that I believe the worst of the worst are the big pharm companies. My prescription drug bill is somewhere between $250 and $300 per *MONTH* (we're retired/fixed income) and I believe that would be much less without the glossy ads in magazines and on TV pushing the latest miracle.

    wait, i thought lobbying was the job of our senators and representatives and all our other elected officials?????

    "we also need lobbyists to represent those that make less than 100k a year..."

    All humans are enculturated in a culture which has core values.

    This is really interested. Our elected leaders of both parties allowed this.

    Follow the money.

    Most of the problems with our government are artifacts of the way money flows through the system.

    Individual taxes should be paid to communities, communities should pay taxes to the state, and the states should pay taxes to the federal level.

    Locales should handle their own affairs in the main, and only "purchase" services ( by paying taxes ) that cannot be provided at the local level, e.g. national defense, basic research, NASA, federal regulation and law enforcement, etc.

    That's not to say that some of the money can't also flow the other way. For example, after collecting taxes from all the locales, a state legislature may decide to reapportion the states wealth by subsidizing various programs in poorer communities.

    Lobbying would still exist, but management of the money would be so spread out that special interests would have to win the cooperation of a lot of politicians. That would make it inherently more difficult for them to get their hands on our money.

    When our country was small, the potential wealth of a locale was also relatively small. It made sense to pool the money.

    These days, however, even small towns could afford to provide numerous services if all the individuals living there paid taxes only to the local government.

    We need completely new ways to redistribute individual wealth. Until the flow of money changes, not much else will.

    The American dream for me is for us to keep an openness to the ever-changing landscape of life and incorporate the inevitability of a global world.

    All men have sinful, depraved hearts. We need to return to the small government, no income taxes that oppress the people and a real check and balances.

    I cannot remember a time when political ideologies have become so engrained into society that truth is no longer of the utmost importance in journalism and reporting. Each side tries to excuse their "good" men.
    Where are the honest journalists that are willing to side with truth and persevere in reporting that all have deficit spent and that all wanted the bailout.
    America might finally be waking up as the waters are simmering for a tax uprising.
    Journalist ethics has seemed to vanish today.

    “We have to dump out the crusty jello and cook something new.
    How about spoons and knives?”
    I find your comment interesting, but no new specific “RECEPIE,” what you intend
    to cook! I have a simple formula it is called “KISS,” it stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid!”
    I do arrange my recepies in that order- CLEAR and SIMPLE, though sometimes
    they are not in proper order!
    Therefore, the “RECEPIES” that I recommend is: “AMEND THE CONSTITUTION!”
    If we are to use nuts and bolts to build or secure the “RANCH” we should use a
    “RECEPIE” to be able to feed everybody, for it will take a lot of men power!

    Mr. Moyers,

    A simple question: What is the difference between the wrongdoing of a politician who is persuaded by a lobbyist to be unscrupulous and a journalist who is persuaded by an editor that a liberal/socialist kingpin(Mr. Daschle) was not corrupt as the other politicians who got caught
    because he would have got appointed anyhow and it was simply a matter of peers. Ironic how liberals love to use the word integrity and flaunt their leaders as good even when they get caught and rationalize all guilt away.

    Mr. Moyers, I just wanted to comment upon your tremendous interview with Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro -- re: Body of War.

    Tomas Young is a very courageous young man. His story is extremely moving (at times heart-wrenching) and expertly captured and conveyed in B.O.W.. It is a documentary I feel everybody should see.

    Thank you for this great piece!

    Mr. Moyers,

    I read your dialogue with Mr. Kaiser up untill the Tom Daschle wavering. Disgusting liberlism at its best. For a really good read try the book:
    "Journalistic Fraud, How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted", by Bob Kohn.
    ISBN 0-7852-6104-4

    Chris: Ranch or wrench?

    It should have been "WRENCH."
    Thanks for dicovering the


    Chris: Ranch or wrench? Some people even pronounce "rinse" as "ranch" (ie-ranch off that termater). Maybe you are speaking in a figurative manner, that a ranch is needed to control the stud-bolts and nuts, but that would be internment.

    The Guvmunt behaves more like a bowl of jello when the people intervene. Players end up being satisfied with a chunk of peach,pear,pineapple or cherry. The bolts (laws, regulations, decisions, policies) and nuts (selective enforcement, reviewing agencies and boards, the police and military) are a charade when it comes to civil rights. They are more likely to turn on the public. So ours is not a nut and bolt situation. We have to dump out the crusty jello and cook something new. How about spoons and knives?

    Concerning the question, "Is big money lobbying inherently part of having a large, centralized federal government?", the following essay will make you realize that some things just never change:

    - ...Government should remain responsive to the needs of the majority of the people and not be hijacked by special interest groups.

    I think lobbying itself is fine, even desirable; citizens certainly have the right to petition their government, and I have a hard time imagining a government being effective and responsive without such input. The problem arises when money changes hands in this process.

    I think this is a basic perversion of democracy, which obviously favors the interests of those with deep pockets and contributes to a pervasive impression that our politicians are bought and paid for. The current 'system' strikes me as fundamentally corrupt and in need of reform. Executive-branch employees have strict ethics regulations that prevent them from accepting money, gifts, or favors from those with business before the government; they get a salary from the government for doing the government's business, plus modest expenses when applicable, but nothing more.

    We need something similar for senators and representatives. These elected officials should receive a salary sufficient for them to live comfortably in Washington (an expensive city), maintain a residence at home, send their kids to college, etc., etc. They should also receive an actual-expense allowance sufficient for them to travel frequently to meet with constituents both individual and corporate. But they should simply be forbidden to accept money, gifts of value, or favors from those with business or potential business before the Congress. It's simple: attempting to buy the vote of a congressman or senator should be illegal, for both the buyer and the seller.

    M.J.Ahles: Remember when Jerry Seinfeld delivered the mail for Newman. He was going along cheerily whistling on Sunday. Newman got caught because Jerry was more efficient and accurate than he. Now why was it again YOU needed "the government" to deliver the mail? I can see Barack and Hillary and Geithner merrily skipping along with the "son of Sam's" (Berkowitz's) bag bringing your notice of eviction. Now I could agree with you if fascist capitalism would only wither away too, but government is intended to be our brass knuckles in fighting the wealthy. Otherwise it's worthless.

    “I'm not familiar with the nuts and bolts of those movements!”
    The two peaceful standard movement that I have stated can be achieved
    when the people agree for a common cause of social justice!
    “What are you offering?”
    For all practical purposes the nuts and bolts of your movement has begin!
    You need a much bigger ranch to tighten those bolts and nuts. As a matter,
    you will need the most people of our country to help you turn that ranch!
    The question is: Will they help you? On more basic note, The state of Pennsylvania
    has issued a publication manual, the title is “Home Rule in Pennsylvania”.
    Other states have it also. To get the PA version go to type in:
    Home Rule In PA, you should get it. It is in pdf format. There are in PA over 68 charters
    form of municipal government created. Just about ALL Charters have a
    clause that reads: “The duties, responsibilities and accountabilities shall be LOOSELY construed.”
    It gives the elected official excuse for rampage, corruption etc. Simply stated, “I did no
    evil, I hear no evil, I see no evil.” The clause should be SPECEFICATLY STRICTLY
    CONSTRUED. It should specifically state: “The DUTIES, RESPONSIBILITIES and
    ACCOUNTABILITIES SHALL be STRICTLY CONSTRUED” for any form of government.
    For a local level you must follow the rules.
    For the NATIONAL level, you may try an electronic petition. It may work.
    You will need some one who is knowledgeable and willing to set it up for you.
    The government is dysfunctional, on a verge of disaster should it continue the status quo!

    Billy Bob,
    Thanks for the suggestions. that's what I was hoping for.

    I'm not offering excuses. I'm offering a solution to a big problem, and asking for help from others with more skill to help implement it. I'm also asking for suggestions on imroving my plan. I'm aware of the movements you mentioned. However, I'm not familiar with the nuts and bolts of those movements. That's why I asked for help. What are you offering?

    Chris: You're correct that the path to Constitutional Amendment is unclear except when initiated by an act of Congress. Since a majority of the states must ratify any amendment one might think that a Constitutional Amendment could originate in state legislatures or as statewide ballot questions. I do no believe there is any standard or standing for citizen petitions in this matter.

    The United States had a workable government under the Articles of Confederation when an elite coterie decided to implement our current (since amended) Constitution. It is unclear how they gained authority to write the newer document. It is clear how they engineered a majority of the state conventions to ratify it. (Highly discriminatory access to voting)

    It might be,Chris, that since confidence in the current system is fading fast, that a new document is overdue. Committees of correspondence might be organized to develop an entirely new governmental charter without the current discriminatory flaws and property based limitations. After all, how much can a roof be patched before it is stripped and made anew. The problem of concentrated wealth, income and power would be an obstacle of first order. But if currency value were disrupted and titles became unenforceable we'd all be propertyless except by exertion of force. (I expect the dollar may soon become nearly worthless and that registers of deeds would be disfunctional in the panic. The Internet may go dark.)The desirable parts of the current cobbled up Constitution might be updated to obtain a starting point.

    “Forgive me, I'm a Wildlife Biologist, not a Political Scientist!” It is a very poor excuse
    at it's best! Rosa Parks did not use excuses.
    “Passage of this reform would be all the reward I'd need...” Very selfish, as long as you are
    happy and satisfied, the conclusion is, it does not matter what else is being done...!
    As always, people want someone else to do the dirty work!
    “So how do I get that petition going, how many signatures do I need, and then how do
    I submit it to the government?”
    You can organized movement such as the “Women Rights Movement” in Nineteen
    hundred and the “Civil Right Movement” in sixties or you can petition the legislators of the
    50 states to consider you “petition” in hope to approve the petition for
    “CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION” or you can petition the Congress and Senate,
    for they poses the total power to set up “CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION,”
    to EMPOWER the PEOPLE to express “THEIR WILL on ALL ISSUES!”

    There is no question Bill Moyers is the best thing on television, with his former co-host and current ‘Now’ host David Brancaccio lapping closely at his heals. But I have a bone to pick with both. As far as I am aware neither have come even close to interviewing people like Dr. Michael Hudson, Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s economic policy advisor. Just a quick glance at Dr. Hudson’s resume is enough to reveal a professional competence to provide perspectives on the current economic crisis we can not afford to ignore.

    More fundamentally, neither Moyers nor Brancaccio seem to be willing to broach the topic of monetary system reform. This issue is at least as old as central banking and the Bank of England. From time to time it has actually reached the level of public discussion, at least for the literate public. During the Great Depression of the last century the Yale economist Irving Fisher – “100% Money” and the Nobel prize-winning chemist Frederick Soddy – “The Role of Money” and “Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt” – elevated the discussion to a level to which the guests on Moyers and Brancaccio have not come close.

    Come on guys! How about stepping up to the plate?

    I think the government should go back to doing what it was originally designed to do, and what it does best, simply delivering the mail and nothing more.
    Democracy is the freedom of self-rule, and the governance of money, our money, should be self-ruled too. What happened to Liberty, the land that I love, the reason we came here, such a short time ago?
    Governance, who needs it?
    I want our freedom back,
    don't you?


    A Bartlett feb 27 10:10am
    Like your fire about making things right. There are many well intended, talented legislateers that newly arrive in Washington only to find the OLD GUARD has rules to control what happens or doesn't happen.

    Prehaps you will consider including rules requiring committee chairman change every 2 yrs. & members are limited to no more that 4 consective yrs. on a committee, with a minimum of 4 yrs. before returning to a committee.

    Change the system so that "good" elected officials have a chance to be heard before they are beaten into Washington form.

    Keep the fire!
    Billy Bob, Florida where no one was fired up against the DNP's vote manulipations

    PS., Is anoyone with the proper skills interested in taking this draft and running with it? Passage of this reform would be all the reward I'd need, as long as the spirit of the thing remains intact.

    Ok. Here it is again. So I need to start a petition to create an INITIATIVE that will force a REFERENDUM to ammend the constitution, right? Forgive me, I'm a Wildlife Biologist, not a Political Scientist. So how do I get that petition going, how many signatures do I need, and then how do I submit it to the government? Does anyone think this solution will work if we force our legislators to accept it? Is it written in a proper format for a constitutional ammendment? Is anyone willing to help me with this?


    The problems:
    1. No issue receives honest consideration free from the biases imposed by moneyed lobbyists and interests.
    2. Elected officials spend the time they should spend doing their jobs on fund raising and campaigning. The cost of elections is outrageous. Only rich people are able to run for public office without fund raising.
    3. The electorate never has easy access to real and true information about the candidates on which to base its vote.
    4. Elections that have been manipulated to bypass and/or ignore the votes of the electorate are completely undemocratic.

    The solutions:
    1. a) Absolutely criminalize: -For any elected official to profit in any way from their position or to hold or accept any other profitable position while in office. –For anyone to give money or favors of any kind to any elected official for any reason.
    1. b) Require elected officials to publically post issues under consideration and review public response.
    2. a) Publically fund elections, and ban campaigning in any other way (including use of personal funds.)
    2. b) Make the FCC require the networks to provide free air time to candidates for limited debates and ads consisting solely of the following;
    3. a) Appoint an absolutely unbiased and highly qualified committee to compile information from candidates’ voting records and any available information on a pre-determined set of issues (revised yearly.) Include candidates’ statements of their current positions on each issue, clearly defined as such. Present this information in written and other media, readily available to the public, and in easily digestible formats.
    3. b) Criminalize all other forms of campaign tactics.
    3. c) Allow candidates limited free air time to address any of the above that slips through the cracks.
    4. a) Retool all voting machines so that they cannot be manipulated to fix elections. This includes a paper trail at the very least. Make this a part of a public works program to employ the unemployed. Have a contest among engineering students and any interested parties to design the most infallible voting machine possible.
    4. b) Require a re-vote where it becomes obvious that the election has been manipulated either intentionally or otherwise, such as in the case of Dade County Florida’s confusing butterfly ballots in 2000.
    4. c) Change the law that allows the Supreme Court to appoint a President when an election is in question.

    Lobbyists are undermining the foundation of our nation...
    Instead of providing for the foundational support of our nation; Lobbyists are luring our politicians into scams and vested interests that are undermining the quality of our nation.
    The next concern is the quick sand that the foundation of our nation is set upon. Instead of building on the solid rock of good moral principals and human concern; we have built on greed and random chance.
    There are not enough laws and jails to enforce doing what is honorable and right. There are too many distraction that prevent people from being what they need to be and doing what they need to do.
    We know what needs to be done but there are always self-centered meaningless quests.

    "No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices."
    Ed Murrow

    Lobbying seems to me to be a way for those who already have to get more. Capitalism is wonderful... in the hands of the wise and compassionate, however, in the hands of the greedy and the materialistic, its the engine that stokes the fire that is part of the reason for the worlds economic woes. Bill if you are any of your guess should discuss what really caused this economic crisis, please explain to me why it was not, ceos and government official playing the capitalist game for their own benefit, and failing to pay their workers a living wage. Government and business wants consumers to stimulate the economy by spending, but spending what, the cost of living, utilities, food, clothing and all manner of services, has increased, but not worker wages, so where is the consumer going to get these spending funds...we're not all making lottery wages.
    I believe the term don't hate the player, hate the game, must have come from someone amongst the collective game playing rich, and its true we shouldnt' hate anyone, but as in the 1929, and now when it all falls down, doesn't that say for the average person, the game is over. Doesn't an increase of people having difficulty surviving, create a danger for us all when these more often than not uneducated individuals become desparate, and rob or steal from us... and speaking of education, or higher education, doesn't it stand to reason that it should not be the luxury that it has become, isn't it now proof that those who have and can afford it do not have all the answers to the worlds problems, I've always believed that there is more success in numbers. I believe that inaccessability to higher education for all people is the most massive mistake any government can make. Lobbying appears to me to be another part of the economic game that threatens everyones livelihood and that's no game. Now many are saying doesn't the new stimulus package in some ways takes from the rich and gives to the poor, where did these lottery wages ceos, movies stars, atheletes come from, why has the proliteriate grown? of the richest men in the world I believe it was Warren Buffet said I pay less taxes than my secretary, and that's just wrong, if these people think their worth these ridiculous salaries, should the common workers not show one day where would they be. Lobbyist are just representatives of these people who make ridiculous salaries to make more ridiculous salaries, business has become a bloodsucking leach.

    I would like to see all Lobyists gone but if not they should be limited on how much money could be spent on Congressmen and women. Congress represents those who can give the most rather than representing us. Congress has too much power. They give themselves raises and health insurance and retirement for life. Why don't they retire at 65 like all of us.

    “You probably want to move toward direct democracy and away from representative democracy.” YES, I want to move toward “TRUE DEMOCRACY”.
    “I tend to think wealth and income distribution be controlled first before any other reforms would be effective. “ With the present representative form of government, judicial system, laws and no accountability you will never achieved the “income controlled distribution” reforms that you seek.
    “You want some categories of decisions made by the people by immediate direct voting.” “They've wasted time "defending" marriage...!” I see it as an individual religious moral issues from a religious perspective. The government should not have been involved! Yes, indeed they “have wasted time and money.”
    “Since the Supreme Court is the main bastion defending the power of wealth I expect it might also have to be recast in some way (term limits, more or less Justices, appointed by [the people] not by a board, not President, cases to be heard chosen by others besides Justices” I may add as well as the Congress, the Senate and the President are “main bastion in defending the power of wealth.” These are issues that should have been resolved by a Constitutional convention!
    Any ISSUES or changes should be approved by 70% of the population and not by small majority!
    “I hope my ideas direct your energy.” I have seen, lived and experience the real facts and I am very convinced why we should have TRUE DEMOCRACY.
    The people should have “DIRECT POWER,” they should dictate what they want, and not the other way around!

    You say "empower the people" so you probably want to move toward direct democracy and away from representative democracy. In other words, you want some categories of decisions made by the people by immediate direct voting. It would resemble Califortnia ballot issues without the pre-election campaigns. All voters would have to be required to participate to obtain an exact measure of the public will. Such voting could be unrealistic (in opinion) because of lack of education or miseducation on the particular issues. It could also retard needed change as people cling to the familiar or even push change too fast for government and society to handle. You've seen how it goes in Arizona and California. They've wasted time "defending" marriage and limiting property tax, and California has a celebrity governor. The Constitutional Amendment might say that the people have aparrallel power with Congress to legislate by referendum question. It would stipulate the methods of voting and counting. You could decide whether the President would retain a veto, say if the vote were close.

    I tend to think wealth and income distribution be controlled first before any other reforms would be effective. Since the Supreme Court is the main bastion defending the power of wealth I expect it might also have to be recast in some way (term limits, more Justices, appointed by a board, not President, cases to be heard chosen by others besides Justices) One Amendment I advocate is a clarification of the 14th Amendment denying that it confers any civil or citizenship rights upon corporations.

    I hope my ideas direct your energy.

    “I don't know how to achieve this.” “Can you please advise me on this?”
    “Can anyone please advise me on this?”


    EMPOWER THE PEOPLE to express their “WILL on ALL ISUUES”

    I have been against public financing of elections, but do see some potential good in it. I worry whoever is in power excluding some groups (e.g. corporations) while others are allowed (e.g. unions). But I suppose the legislation could be written to exclude every group.

    However, I am cynical and do not believe it's remotely possible to have those in power (democrats and republicans) give up their jobs willingly. And both groups would look at their ability to raise money as key to that.

    And given our track record at voting for incumbents, both groups are probably comfortable that no matter how badly they act, the dopes that vote them in office will continue doing so.

    Dear Bill,

    Thank you for addressing the one issue that affects every other issue under consideration by our government. I have composed a solution (see below,) and want it to be seriously considered by law makers. I don't know how to achieve this. Can you please advise me on this? Can anyone please advise me on this? Thanks!


    The problems:
    1. No issue receives honest consideration free from the biases imposed by moneyed lobbyists and interests.
    2. Elected officials spend the time they should spend doing their jobs on fund raising and campaigning. The cost of elections is outrageous. Only rich people are able to run for public office without fund raising.
    3. The electorate never has easy access to real and true information about the candidates on which to base its vote.
    4. Elections that have been manipulated to bypass and/or ignore the votes of the electorate are completely undemocratic.

    The solutions:
    1. a) Absolutely criminalize: -For any elected official to profit in any way from their position or to hold or accept any other profitable position while in office. –For anyone to give money or favors of any kind to any elected official for any reason.
    1. b) Require elected officials to publically post issues under consideration and review public response.
    2. a) Publically fund elections, and ban campaigning in any other way (including use of personal funds.)
    2. b) Make the FCC require the networks to provide free air time to candidates for limited debates and ads consisting solely of the following;
    3. a) Appoint an absolutely unbiased and highly qualified committee to compile information from candidates’ voting records and any available information on a pre-determined set of issues (revised yearly.) Include candidates’ statements of their current positions on each issue, clearly defined as such. Present this information in written and other media, readily available to the public, and in easily digestible formats.
    3. b) Criminalize all other forms of campaign tactics.
    3. c) Allow candidates limited free air time to address any of the above that slips through the cracks.
    4. a) Retool all voting machines so that they cannot be manipulated to fix elections. This includes a paper trail at the very least. Make this a part of a public works program to employ the unemployed. Have a contest among engineering students and any interested parties to design the most infallible voting machine possible.
    4. b) Require a re-vote where it becomes obvious that the election has been manipulated either intentionally or otherwise, such as in the case of Dade County Florida’s confusing butterfly ballots in 2000.
    4. c) Change the law that allows the Supreme Court to appoint a President when an election is in question.

    Robert Kaiser,
    Your reply to Bill Moyers is a perfect example of the miserly thinking that has caused the present failure of national finance.
    The problem is not too much money; the problem is not enough money circulating to support an efficient exchange of goods and services. The well has run dry and the necessary fluid cash is down to a trickle. Trickle down economics will not support our hi-tech maxed out population.
    The old adage that you get what you pay for is still a truism. An infusion of funds into the demand side of economics was essential to fiscal recovery in the 30's and it is necessary at this present time.
    There are two choices; declare a national bankruptcy or generate a new internal monetary system. It may also be necessary to pass laws to force the flow of funds where there are unpatriotic obstructionists. Letting our economic system collapse is not an option.

    (20:36) After the new deal, Washington began throwing money at problems...

    That's true, big government means big spending, which means big opportunities, which means big money for lobbyists. So it's inevitable, there no way to stop it.


    This is line of thinking shows how inside the box Robert G. Kaiser really is. Let me break it down: lobbyists are a problem, big money is wasted, there are no real opportunities, and there is a way to stop it. Of course the root of the problem is big government.

    Transparency will only go so far.

    The remedies that would have the most effect -- public campaign financing and stringent limitations on corporate lobbying --would require reversal of some terrible but at this point firmly embedded-as-precedent Supreme Court decisions -- corporate personhood (1880s) and campaign contributions as "speech" (1970s).

    Molly Ivins said it best: the current system of Congressional campaign financing is just legalized bribery.

    But, while we work for something that will approximate public financing and more stringent limits on corporate lobbying, transparency measures can be helpful.

    One reform that generates a remarkable amount of passive resistance is to make available the names and responsibilities of Congressional staff.

    Professional lobbyists purchase this information. Both they and the firms that supply it have an interest in keeping it difficult to obtain. Reporters have no great desire to level the playing field; they rely on Congressional staffers as (usually unnamed) sources, and socialize with them.

    But what's the excuse of our members of Congress, whose salaries we pay?

    Very few committees and almost no members make public the names and positions of their staff on their web sites. Most will not produce such a list when asked by a constituent. Some are even reluctant to do so on an individual basis for a constituent who wants to direct information or questions to the staffer who deals with issue X.

    Yet a _third_ of staffers go on to become lobbyists, according to a 2007 or 2008 report by CREW or CRP or the like.

    Some corporate lobbies 'place' staffers in the offices of members of Congress whose function is as much to report back to the lobby as it is to serve that representative, much less that member's constituents. (Which is a joke, anyway; the real constituents are not the voters but the lobbies who fund the members' campaigns.)

    Lobbying is a very bad thing for the nation and its citizens. Lobbying only serves corporations and the scoundrals who carry the corp.'s water.

    Lobbying is not an inherent part of politics, no. It is a part of politics only because of the unfortunate S. Ct. ruling giving corporations the same rights (to petition congress) as given to individual citizens by the US Constitution.

    Congress could creat a policy to limit lobbying, yes. Cangress can pass laws in the common, public interest. But because congress's pockets are lined, first, by lobbyists, such a public policy is not likely to happen absent a public uprising: and that's not likely, either.

    Billy Bob: The effects of transparency are not universal. Something selfish I do with a $10 tip a towee gives me might look pretty bad. A similar selfish act when done with $10 million by Bruton Smith of NASCAR can be celebrated as a miracle performed by a paragon. The illusion of wealth makes pork sausage and the crimes of political economy go down easier.
    This is another reason that economic reform necessarily precedes political reform. When worship of wealth is the state religion, the state proceeds accordingly, even in Florida, nope, especially in Florida. Just marvel at the unregulated over-development that has negated appeal.

    Complete exposure of who does what will level the political playing field.

    Ambiguity such as America's Gen Motors responce to a foreign auto warranty of 100,000\10yr, was to promise 100,000 warranty, but quietly list 5 years--that is 20,000 miles a year avg.--they thought that would fool Mainstreet. Just as showing up before Congress with only sizzle & NO meat on the grill!

    It seems no one gets the correlation between the DNP denying Mich. & FL nomination-election votes, because of a rule that requires certain small states vote before larger states, & the financial crisis--HEY! The election was controlled! If you don't get that then no wonder Am. auto companies think they can promise the moon & give us what they want.

    They think Mainstreet is composed of
    Stupid Idiots.
    Seems that view is still held on Wall Street & by the Fed. govt.!

    What do I think.....?

    If the shoe fits--ware it.

    Congress could do more than make lobbyists doings transparent. They should limit the number of lobbyists and their pay.

    It is Congress's job to write the legislation, yet we have lobbyists writing our legislation. Congress should limit the access.

    There should be pay scales. Lobbyists that lobbys for worthwhile projects should be 'reasonably' compensated. Now they are excessively compensated, making often more than US Senators.

    Lobbysts are ruining the country. I see only one solution to the lobbying issue, Bill I would like you to push this on your show, and maybe we find other ways to create a grass roots effort here.
    Get a proposed constituional ammendment moving that limits the right to pettition to exclude bribes and other payments. I am serious, and it is possible to pull this off. Once this country passed an ammendment to outlaw the sale of alcohol, think of how hard that must have been, this would not be as hard.

    Good show on lobbying. And in the case of the banking problem, its making the economic situation much worse. The banking problem won't clear up until lobbysts let some changes be made to the bankruptcy code. That wont happen until its too late I fear.

    ...Words, words, words...
    Kaiser said: "The right to petition the government for redress of grievances is right there in the First Amendment, and that’s lobbying." I don't think his understanding should stand.

    Redressing grievances is one thing, undermining representation of the interests of the constituencies that voted for — not paid for — representatives, is another. So, if he thinks lobbying as currently practiced in DC is what the Constitution defends, it behooves us to redefine "lobbying" so it is the tool of individuals and collections of individuals and not for-profit corporations who sell their services to influence elected officials in a very unrepresentative manner up to and including writing the legislation themselves.

    You and I don't get that opportunity. How often have our congresspeople voted for bills they've neither written nor read? Wouldn't it be nice if every bill would have an addendum (written by non-partisan analysts) of who is likely to benefit from the measures put into power by it, and who might be affected adversely by it — accompanied by estimated population percentages for both positions.

    There is an attitude that is being nurtured in our nation that those in need should not be helped by others who are not in need. That we are not a people who take care of others. Are we a nation that believes we are a mob where it is each man for him self and if you don't have enough to survive then you should be left to die in the gutter? Is that what we are? Some are trying to send this message to people- Why should we help others and use our tax dollars to do this? Well this is what Democracy is about. This is what is practiced in Europe with national healthcare and many other services that people get that the entire nation pays into because there is a fundamental idea that the people give so that all can prosper. What they don't realize is that the corporations who are spending trillions of our tax dollars are doing nothing for us or our nation.

    Mr. Moyers, One of the problems with the federal government is that aides to the president spy on the private sex lives of private citizens like Jack Valenti. What type of morality does it take for a presidential aide to collaborate with J. Edgar Hoover to spy on the private life of Jack Valenti?

    I was exhausted and ill when I watched your show this past week and, tired as I was, I was engrossed in the discussions of both segments. Thank you for making my recuperation that much better!

    As for the questions regarding lobbying and the effect it would have, I pose a few questions and comments. Since I am late to the discussion, I am not certain I will see response, but I pose them anyway.

    1. Points have been raised that it would be difficult to fund public elections. To this I ask:

    Given all the money being thrown around in lobbying efforts, the vast majority of which is by way of campaign contributions, isn't it fair to say that THOSE moneys should, perhaps, be applied either to the election fund (without regard to "favoritism") OR, my personal preference, quash those ugly comments that we tax businesses too much. Keep in mind, many lobbying expenses are TAX-DEDUCTIBLE or receive other tax-favorable treatment. Couldn't we close the loopholes or raise taxes on corporate (and personal?) income resulting from those efforts? This would certainly be a disincentive to large campaign contributions.

    2. While money has always been a piece of the political machine, I dare say that it has utterly corrupted our government more recently with the increased spending through lobbying efforts. Why, I remember as a college student watching presidential, gubernatorial, senatorial (ad nauseaum) debates that truly sparked intelligent and thoughtful discussion. By and large what we see now is sound-bites, minimization of the issues to "core" positions and so on. I, for one, do not think the American Public asked for (nor wanted) this dumbing down. On the contrary, since the Reagan administration, this trend has increased at bullet-train speed and it's time to apply the brakes and bring us back to intelligent and thorough discussions of issues rather than resorting to character assassination, ideological mud-slinging and distortion of positions held by other candidates.

    3. It seems to me it's time to bring back the notion of "Equal Time." The minor candidates in our current campaign system do not stand a chance now that the media can "pick and choose" those candidates they choose to cover. Moreoever, given the sponsorship of debates, we have seen an increase in discrimination against those candidates whose "vision" does not match that of the media elite or, in the interest of ratings, are not allowed to participate in order to ensure "higher viewership." I dare say, this is NOT the role of the media in true, journalistic fashion. Sadly, I fear the mainstream media, by and large, has denigrated and attempted to dismantle the "Fourth Estate." Or, perhaps, more sadly, they have appropriated it for their own gains.

    Finally, to those who claim that elections outside the U.S. (particularly in places such as Palestine, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, et al) are corrupt and the U.S. must find ways to help those nations "become more democratic," I dare say we need to look inward and address the same issues. In many respects, our own election process is fraught with corruption, fraud and disingenuous public "benefit."

    Oh, and as a last point here, there were polls in advance of the election in Palestine indicating that Hamas would win that election. Sadly, the U.S. government and the accommodating press refused to cover that issue so well within our borders. This is emblematic of the problems we face -- we are not honest in many of our public dealings on a domestic level. If we are to be held as a "beacon" for the rest of the world, we must BE a beacon. At the moment, that beacon is very dim.

    I just wanted to thank Bill MOyers and the guests on this show, Robert Kaiser and Parker Palmer for such incredible conversations. I cannot even begin to thank you all enough. And also Simon Johnson from last week. These guests are so knowledgeable and articulate, it helps the rest of us understand what is going on.

    "The executive of the modern state is but a committe for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." - Karl Marx, 1848

    Fellow Moyers addicts, think about this. This simple statement still has so much validity in our current troubling times. Why do members of the bourgeoisie class continue to be appointed to the most powerful positions in our government? Henry "Colonel Klink" Paulson for example, and so many others.

    Although the lobbying literally takes place in the congress, the fact that the richest forces in our American society are inside the walls of our government influencing our policy at the expense of the American citizen and for their own benefit is an unethical crime. It is a crime against humanity.

    As Hugo Chavez would say in the country where I am currently studying, "beat the yankees."

    Bill Moyers and staff:

    Over the years you have shown a welcome light on many forms of governmental abuse. Your programs dealing with earmarks rank as some of the most important.

    After contemplating the issues that Robert Kaiser addressed — and the responses from your viewers — allow me to weigh in.

    (1) Access to our legislators is an essential principle of representative government. If those with little time and little money can not arrange personal visits, we can join groups (AARP, NRA or whatever) and collectively send someone to Washington to speak for our concerns. If those groups happen to be corporations, do they deserve any less opportunity to have a spokesman to voice their concerns?

    The idea of outlawing lobbyists is not unlike the idea of repealing the First Amendment.

    (2) The process of last-minute, done-in-the-dark, earmarks to bills is antithetical to representative government. It's like filling the troughs to the brim and sending the hogs in to gobble down as much as they can.

    This abominable practice stems from allowing legislators to attach non-relevant amendments to popular bills. No legislator would dare vote against an apple pie and motherhood bill, even if it contained a dozen toxic little earmarks.

    With earmarks in play, each and every legislator is compelled to add as much pork as possible to every bill that goes through Congress. Without being able to claim getting a monstrous serving of pork for one's constituents, what chance would have a chance of being re-elected?

    Therefore, reason suggests that bill should contain no more than one subject. In that way legislators can vote on the merit — or lack thereof — of any proposition.

    (3) Several viewers suggested that publicly financed elections will solve the problem of earmarks. For the life of me, I cannot see the connection.

    However, to anyone who will take the effort to spend more than five seconds thinking the matter through, it becomes clear that government financed elections would only reinforce the disparity of wealth between candidates. Most plans that I have seen propose giving Democrats and Republicans matching funds, and likewise for smaller parties such as the Greens and Libertarians.

    If Democrats and Republicans running for an office can raise $40 million each, and Greens and Libertarians can raise $1 million each, the established parties have a $39 million edge over the newer parties. Add matching funding and the established parties then have a $78 million dollar advantage over the smaller parties. I can think of no possible way this can be called fair.

    One of your viewers cited two states and two cities as examples "where full public funding of elections has been utilized to great results." One of those cities, Portland, Oregon, is where I currently reside. In the 2008 mayoral election with about 10 candidates, the "great results" here started with one case of blatant fraud (one candidate tapped in, apparently with the sole purpose of getting the matching funds), followed by the two most well-heeled candidates battling it out. The citizen candidates were left far behind in the dust.

    If someone is sufficiently intent on seeing roses, he will likely see dandelions and proudly call them roses.

    (4) The news media, as well demonstrated by the latest presidential campaign, focuses on those candidates with the highest name recognition and the deepest pockets. Apparently, no points are given for the worth of their ideas. Consequently, candidates who had interesting ideas, but little money — such as Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Ron Paul — were largely ignored in the Democratic and Republican debates and almost totally ignored by the national press.

    With a lazy press showing more interest in horse races than in horse sense, incompetent public officials are sure to follow.

    Perhaps your willingness to follow ideas more than personalities will infect the mainstream press.

    Thank you for all you do,

    Don Ricardo

    beecham has written: "The problem is the Federal Reserve. It must be eliminated."

    Jawohl! And we must remember that JFK had announced that he was going to do just that: eliminate the 'Federal' Reserve.

    A short time later, Kennedy had been killed.

    (If anyone has more information, and especially information that negates this, please post.)

    Finally someone -- Robert Kaiser -- mentioned the obvious and proven solution to the excessive influence of private money in poiltics: public financing of campaigns. If the likelihood of its enactment is low, that's due in large part to the fact that those who know it works hardly ever talk about it. Please do so more often...much more often.

    Our government is supposed to be neither large nor centralized according to the Constitution.

    The problem is the Federal Reserve.

    It must be eliminated.

    It is inconceivable to me that for most professional occupations one needs to have one or more college degrees, but a U.S. Congressman does not even need a high school diploma.

    Your typical lobbyists are highly educated and thoroughly professional individuals. They are hand-picked by large corporations from among the best and the brightest. They are competent at what they do, whether we like them or not. Regrettably, The same is not true of U.S. representatives.

    We have no required minimum standards for representatives to either the House or the Senate. You can be totally illiterate, even a convicted felon (Ted Stevens) and still run and get elected (well... almost, for Ted Stevens). With few exceptions, our representatives are no match for the lobbyists.

    Electing our friendly town barber may have been OK in the early days, but in the complex world of today it doesn't work anymore.

    Somehow we must make sure that the guy who writes our tax laws is at least as competent as the guy who prepares our tax returns.

    It is fashionably easy to bash the lobbyists, but we need instead to start electing people for their competence and academic credentials, not solely for their charming smile or attractive rethoric.

    Even David Eddy gets it now: You can't have representative democracy when there is a big wealth and income disparity. Taxation has to be progressive, compensation must be capped and an economic floor and safety net must be incorporated into a recovered economy. It is difficult or impossible for one to become or remain extremely wealthy or extremely poor in a fair and just society. Devolving corporate personhood and giving the taxpayers power to at least partially designate the uses of their levies would close the door on a dark chapter in our history. If there weren't wealthy interests and corporations to seek political advantage, elections and legislation would take a more benevolent course. Government should not be our only protection and access to voting. To streamline productive labors in large enterprises all employees should also have a part in the ownership and management of the enterprise where they work. Small capitalism and public institutions would still require unions. And we should never be satisfied with the organizations we have when we are aware of a better way. (I'm sure this anticipation does not lie outside the tragic gap.We shall have it along with universal health care sooner or later.)

    Elected officials already get a publicly funded paycheck. The lobbyists would not be calling on them if they weren't in public office. Any money the lobbyists give to an elected official, or member of their family, should go straight to the general fund of the branch of government they work for (federal, state, county, city). The same with any speaking fees while in office. This would quickly level the playing field between incumbents and non incumbent challengers in the amount of money in their war chests to support a campaign.

    Another great show, Bill. I only wish mainstream media would pick up subjects covered on your show so more taxpayers would know what's going on in our country. Unfortunately, many average americans are out at their kids' events on Friday night and not everybody has TIVO or DVR.
    I think we can cut back on buying our politicians if we found a way to put limits on how much can be spent on each election race. It could be pro-rated by position (President, Governor, Senator, Representative, and so forth). Having a cap on what a candidate can spend would make the races more equitable, help eliminate contribution fraud, limit the purchasing power of special interest groups and - best of all - reduce the number of ads we are bombarded with starting months before the actual election.

    A small complaint:
    In the introduction, Mr. Moyers touches on Allen Stanford and his recent financial scandal, and Stanford's connections to politicians.
    Although Moyers mentioned John McCain, "one of the original Keating Five", as a recipient of a Stanford campaign contribution, he failed to mention that more Stanford money actually went to the Obama campaign.
    The information is easily accessible at Open Secrets.Org/Center for Responsive Politics.

    To whom it may concern,
    Buying favors from the government is an automatic corruption of the government, no matter how you cut it.
    Lobbyists are a no no bad bad shame shame that cannot be a part of a democratic system. It makes the government an automatic Oligarchy run by the rich and powerful.

    There is little question that while full public funding of campaigns is not the wole answer, it is a very important answer to the corruption in our government. Special moneyed interests will always find a way to corrupt the system, but do we have to make it so easy for them. Full publid funding will negate the influence of special interests, but it will also renew our faith in our democratic system. My guess is that this will never happen because it relies on the legislators to institute such a system, and which among them is willing to "kill the goose that lays the golden egg"? For inspiration, we need only look to New Hampshire and Arizona as well as Portland OR and Albuquerque NM where full public funding of elections has been utilized to great results.
    Los Angeles is an example of some of the negative effects of big money in elections where the current mayor has garnered over $2.7 million dollars in a war chest and as a result frightened away potential qualified candidates in next months election.

    Many will say that we cannot afford full public funding, but I say we cannot afford not.
    Lou Del Pozzo, PAC PAL, CA

    In spite of when or how it bagan, Lobbists are ruining our democracy. I think they should be outlawed.

    Do you think a policy should be devised to try to limit the influence of Washington lobbyists?

    Absolutely not. Professional lobbying shouldn't be restricted. It should be illegal.

    If a corporation or other large interest wants to influence legislation, let its CEO or some other representative send an email to its congressperson, just like you and I do.

    Letting paid lobbyists buy access and influence with politicians guarantees that policy will be tilted heavily in favor of wealthy special interests. How does that make sense?

    Fri Feb 20, 2009 - Great Program
    I always find it curious when the especially the U.S. but also the rest of the West call other regimes corrupt.
    Just because the laws allow corruption does not mean that there is not corruption.
    The behaviour of the U.S. congress people and the rest of the political system, accepting big bucks for taxpayer favours is corruption in anybody’s eyes.

    The last time I was in Iran it only cost me only a $1000.00 to talk to and Iranian cabinet minister. It costs much more in the U.S..
    Bob Woolcott - Honey Harbour ON Canada

    excellent interview with Robert Kaiser! thanks!

    As an anthropologist, it is readily apparent that we need to understand the profound cultural reasons that motivate the players in our current political and economic crises.

    All humans are enculturated in a culture which has core values.

    American Culture, in stark contrast with Japanese Culture, enculturates children with the core value of "Independence Training". In IT, individualism (not socialism) and social competition (not social cooperation) are considered to be our cultural ideals. This is quite literally enshrined in our founding documents like the U.S. Constitution. Children in our culture are raised to be highly competitive, individualistic, self-reliant, and materialistic. What American has not dreamed of being the valedictorian, the most valuable player, the best teacher, the fastest runner, or simply the best in any activity? We have emphasized automobiles over sociomobiles. Our movie heroes are singular individuals who triumph over all. And then there is the U.S. Army's enigmatic slogan: "An Army of One".

    In contrast with American Cultural core values, Japanese Culture with "Dependence Training" raises their children to be highly cooperative and socially responsible (socialistic). This cultural feature helps us to understand why the CEO of JAL and other Japanese corporations make a fraction of what American CEO's generally make. The socially positive consequence of DT is that people want to do the right thing and that people are able to weigh the possible social consequences of their actions. Crime in Japan is a mere fraction of what it is in the USA. The Chinese call this "working together" kwang ho.

    Japanese play American baseball like Japanese, not Americans. Sometimes in their games, social cooperation is considered more important than winning a game. Americans will do whatever it takes to win. And American team players will do whatever it takes to be the most valuable player on their team.

    As an anthropologist, what I have seen develop over the last few decades in this country is a phenomenon that I call "social monsters". These are quite literally certain individuals who have been exalted to such a high social status that they believe that they can get away with murder, genocide, or grand theft on the grandest scale imaginable.


    Govt. in the Sunshine may reduce excesses in reallocation of tax dollars. The Fed. govt. takes tax dollars from individuals & re-distributes to those that play along better. Our Rep. govenor embraced President Change so stimulius will flow to our state so teachers & govt. employees will not have to be laid off as the govenor promised property taxes would "drop like a rock", & the double whammy of reduced property values & the inevitable collapse of the construction bubble
    left him in a tough position come election time.

    What has your govenor done for your state? Has he\she embraced Change?

    President Change brought Biden, Clinton, Daschel, etc. along to stimulate his agenda--which is 8yrs--any way necessary.

    Monies flows to those
    that goes along
    with THE plan.

    Dear Bill and team,

    I am reacting to your segment with Simon Johnson from some time ago -blame the time difference with Down Under and the itunes delay in downloading your show.
    Is someone associated with the IMF/World Bank so-called 'Washington consensus' which has destroyed so many jobs and national economies over the past three decades, legitimate to advise on financial reform? Please don't misread my comment: based on his contribution to your show, Mr Johnson appears to be a nice and honest citizen. But is his favorite medicine tough enough to do the job? Isn't he himself a poacher turned gamekeeper? Should we not require more radical action?

    I enjoyed this discussion and feel it deserves as much attention as we can afford to give it. I have yet to read through all of the comments, but one thing I would like to question.

    Towards the end of the segment, Kaiser mentions the latest reforms "requiring transparency" for earmarks within Congress. Although I don't have all the details, I believe Kaiser is incorrect in this statement and I'm surprised that Moyers did not call him out on it. My understanding of the law, is that it was altered in the 11th hour (like so many others) to change the wording so that Congressmen and women are asked to voluntarily submit information regarding earmarks and lobbying connections. I don't think this is even a requirement. While it is an improvement on what the law was, it in now way affects the issue at the heart of the problem.

    I didn't see the show until the last part of it with Palmer. Another excellent interview, Bill.

    I've a long and studied opinion on lobbies. First they're very necessary, as are special interest groups. Somebody needs to educate these treasonous dullards (called legislators) whom we hold in such high esteem. However when the K Street inhabitants' process becomes megalomaniacal through their proximity to power and the lobby industry runs away with itself and greed becomes the American credo and people like Abramoff are invited into the Bush White House over 200 times in just two years, and the Chamber of Commerce's (CofC) wide endorsement of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century hold wide sway over practical democratic governance, does the word 'reform' begin to hold any meaning to American electorate (citizens, voters, people)?

    As difficult as it is for me to inform those "irrelevant idealists" in the "Obama camps", as potentially "corrosively cynical" as it may sound, (that is, the demise of this once potentially great, if not truly great nation) hopes for real change won't be fulfilled by one guy (Obama). Bush got him elected (goodness sakes, even Jay Leno shows his awareness of that with a skit presented on his show last week). I'm not sure if the electorate wholly realizes that or not, and Obama's a refreshing change, especially considering the last eight embarrassing if not miserable years. Were Obama to do all that he could, wield the power of his office as mightily as any president in history, it's too late. The USA has sold itself and is a dying nation, is now an emerging third world nation. Either the people (folks? ain't that cute--"folks") wake up and at the polls DEMAND true and real change so that the 99% of them are represented rather than the 1% who need no help whatsoever (for the rich are all doing fine, they can take care of themselves), the true lawmaking will take place led by the largest lobbying group in these United States, the CofC.

    It was a reality check when I, as a student in a high school history class, realized that the Roman Empire lasted well more than 1000 years, and I compared it to the about 190 years (at that time in the 1960s) of America's lifespan. Greatness has not even been approached by the USA, and will not begin to be until the citizens realize that their nation's greatness is in direct proportion to the well-being of it's poorest citizen. This hope, this change that we heard about in the then-Sen. Obama campaign speeches are empty only unless implementation of the reforming tools of political, election, campaign and lobbying practices occur. While campaigning on those reforms at the time would have made him unelectable, he and the new congressional majority could now make such reforms reality. They could if they really loved democratic principles and the United States of America--may she rest in peace.

    I like Bill.
    I especially like Bill during times of corporate bailouts and political corruption ( when times are slow, he turns to nagging us with his social engineery, liberals-are-the-best ideas )
    Anyway, I would just like to comment that this was a really nice show and that of course if the problem is political corruption then we should stop dithering and buy back our politicians with federal funding for campaigns. Waiting for the alternative ( can a slug grow a backbone ? ) just takes too long. At the rate these people are handing out bailouts and "stimulus" packages, we'll be dead before then.

    And are any of you as surprised as I was with the 180 degree turn Obama has made in his main hope/change promise to end lobbying and political corruption ? The stimulus package is a main piece of legislation, is filled with pork and it lies on his head.

    Bill, thanks once again for an excellent interview with Robert Kaiser. Lobbying in and of itself is not a bad thing. Members of Congress need information from where ever they can get it. It only becomes a bad thing when the companies doing the lobbying contribute to political campaigns. At this point the answer seems to be public financing of elections. If people are concerned about how much this will cost, I suggest it will be much less than the existing lobbying and campaign contributions (pay to play) has cost us for many, many years. Big money lobbying of the federal government is not inherent. However, allowing the source of that big money to contribute to political campaigns is the problem. Public financing of all elections is the answer. If the corporation could not contribute to a political campaign then it could not have any "undue" influence. The Rod Blagojevich corruption event is related to this. How different is what he did to what Members of Congress do day in and day out?

    Why isn't it enough for a public servant to make a decent living? Because a decent living has to guarantee private health care, private schools, and enough money so that no crash can bankrupt you!

    Lobbyists need to be shut out of elections and the only way we can do this is public financing of elections. My uncle, a high school janitor who died twenty years ago, was telling us youngsters around the kitchen table in the early 80's that public financing of elections was the only way the little guy was ever going to get any real consideration from our legislators. Obama came a little closer with his small contributions from many of us. But it is not far enough. Both the reasons why those people in the red states who vote against their own interests and John McCain's railings against earmarks are starting to make more sense to me, a San Francisco Bay Area progressive.

    I think of the combination of cuts and tax hikes we little guys are facing in California, and it makes me sick. What's the difference to these moneyed interests if we have health care, education, and dignified retirements, as long as they and theirs have millions?

    If progressives can't get it together and change the power structure in this country, I might have to become a Libertarian!

    Lobbyists and corruption are not recent phenomena. The administration of Warren Harding is notable for its corruption. Similarly, election irregularities, graft and corruption characterized all post-reconstruction administrations. Today's fixers don't look at today's pot of government gold any different from the way the fixers of previous generations looked at it. It was, then, as it is, now, the biggest pot in town and access to its gold is not based on merit. Reducing the size of the federal government wouldn't change the nature of Washington politics or government contracting. It would merely shift some of it to the states, where it would be even less visible. To rid ourselves of these vampires, we must make their behavior transparent. The light of knowledge will reduce them to ashes.

    I think that there is real merit in the concept that, if government weren't wielding such power over the economy (even before the current crisis), we wouldn't have the infestation of professional lobbyists that we do. George Will hit it on the head when he observed that the kind of post-Congressional self-enrichment that Tom Daschle was the beneficiary of would have been impossible in the days of Calvin Coolidge. Nobody would pay that much for a shot at as little as was at stake then. The more governmental spending that is in play, the more that people will pay to influence those who can help them to get a piece of it.

    Thanks Bill,once again for a great report.

    I liked Kaiser's idea of a published log of each member's contact with a lobbyist and who or what the lobbyist represents.

    With some very notable exceptions, our US congress is packed with some real LAZY leeches. It is obvious that many members simply sit on their backsides and wait for lobbyists to come to court them to find out "what the country needs." A politician often says, publicly, that he/she is upset about what he/she read in the paper. Don't congressional members have staff and means to check things out beyond what the reporter can? If the average U.S. worker did his/her job with as little enthusiasm and effort as many members of congress, he/she would be fired - that is, if their jobs hadn't already been outsourced to foreign slave labor.

    Keep keepin' on Bill!!!

    One of Robert Kaiser's last comments on tonight's program was that it is now possible to track earmarks and that it would also be valuable to post a log of each legislator's meetings with lobbyists.

    It's my feeling that we should go much further.

    Each legislator's web site, including his/her complete calendar should be posted on his district's web site -- along with all the other "real business" of the legislator.

    The web site should be owned by the citizen-constituents, not by the legislator. Every Congressional website today is essentially a campaign site for an incumbent who knows what the American people want and is fighting for you. Does anybody know what the American people want?

    The web site should contain (among other things) the raw texts of the mail, phone calls, the faxes, the emails of the constituents along with a serious polling function on pending legislation. Picture functionality like IMDB or Amazon "stars" & reviews linked with, totally independent of the legislator.

    Constituents could provide quantitative and qualitative feedback and find out what the American people really think by district, zip code, gender, etc.

    It seems anyone should be able to lobby for ideas they believe in, but its been abused. The rich have too much power. We either need to curtail the way the system currently is, like public financing of elections-

    why do they still pay for tv commercial time? its the publics airwaves that abc leases, elections should not have to pay

    we also need lobbyists to represent those that make less than 100k a year,

    i want to open a lobby firm for the american citizen, if i get one dollar from every american thats over 300 million

    we have the potential to swing the power back our way-

    He's such an insider!!!!!

    The Post?? The Post??? Check out George Will's column on global.....cooling.

    Everyone should have equal access to elected officials for lobbying. For starters we should pass the Fair Elections Now Act, a bipartisan bill for public financing of Congressional races.

    The successful solution of public financing of election campaigns is demonstrated in Maine, Arizona, Connecticut and other states.

    The public needs to buy the politicians, or the big money interests will continue to do so.

    If the problem is the centralization of money at the federal level, then the obvious solution is to de-centralize the money (and responsibilities) back to the state level. Isn't that already covered in the constitution?

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