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Lobby money influence

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1richardbsmith
Jan 31, 2012, 8:05pm Top

I could post a bunch of links about who is contributing to who, but I am not. My question is about the reason for the influence that lobby money seems to provide.

The politicians do not keep the money remaining from a campaign. They don't benefit directly personally financially from campaign funds.

Why does lobby money buy so much influence? And I have no doubts that it a sound investment for many.

Is it just to fund the campaign? Left over money maybe can be spent by the successful candidate to buy their own influence with donations?

Forgive how naive this question seems to be.

2theoria
Jan 31, 2012, 9:44pm Top

Are you even watching the current Republican primary campaign?

3Lunar
Edited: Feb 1, 2012, 12:22am Top

#2: What does the primary have to do with lobbying?

In any case, so much of a congressional incumbent's time is taken up by raising campaign funds that I don't think one can downplay their dependency on lobbyists to hook them up with donations. I'm all in favor of making it harder for them to raise money, especially since it helps keep them away from the floor of the legislature where they do the most damage.

4richardbsmith
Feb 1, 2012, 6:12am Top

Lunar,
To your point I have suggested we pay them a salary, but they have to stay home. They cannot pass new legislation.

Theoria,
My question is why the lobby money is so influential on the politician. And it is not just Republicans.

I understand the lobbyist gain for giving contributions - government contracts, massive influence over new laws, pressure on regulators, etc. I don't understand the gain that a politician has from selling their influence.

It is not a direct financial gain. The left over campaign funds is not theirs to pack away for a rainy day.

The politician's gain from taking in lobby money, is it simply money to fund their campaign?

Is it just to pay for a TV ad?

Is the job worth so much such that a politician peddles influence just to pay for the TV ads to get the job?

5Amtep
Feb 1, 2012, 7:12am Top

Think of it in terms of natural selection. The ones who spend all their term raising money for their re-election are the ones who get re-elected. Over time, the seats Congress will tend to go to the types of politicians who consistently get re-elected, because that's what getting re-elected means. There doesn't have to be more reason than that.

The only way I can see to change this is to break the link between spending money and getting votes. And if we knew how to do that, we could get rid of advertising too...

6richardbsmith
Edited: Feb 1, 2012, 7:45am Top

Thanks amtep,

I am not fussing so much about the connection between money and getting votes, that would be another topic to discuss. Though I suspect as you suggest a topic without hope of resolution.

I have had for a long time a question about the motivation, the gain, that a politician has for selling access to them and influence over their legislative work.

The lobbyist get to influence laws that work to their advantage for their interests.

The politician gets a job that pays for a Congressperson $170k or so plus good benefits. If they lose they don't get that job, but many seem to continue to do quite well peddling influence on the lobby side of the equation.

I understand the lobby side of the transaction. For the politician side of the transaction, is the power, prestige, ego, maybe even for some the hope to do something good, is this the consideration for selling access to them.

I understand the reason to purchase access. I just don't understand the reason for selling it, not just on the national level. There is money flying around also at the state and local levels.

Maybe the job of being an elected official itself is worth the sell. And I just don't understand what a great job it is.

7lawecon
Feb 1, 2012, 8:15am Top

I guess I don't understand what you're asking.

For whatever reasons - and I'm sure that there is some variance in those reasons - certain people want to secure public office.

Some offices are appointive. For those offices, the precondition is that you make friends with the person or persons doing the appointment, do them favors, etc. This is, I understand, the main form of "lobbying" in many Eastern countries and authoritarians societies everywhere. You want an office, you butter up the Party and Our Great Leader and eventually they may give you an office.

In our society, many offices are elective. You want one of those offices, you first have to butter up the local Party officials so that they put you on the ballot, then you have to have those who turn out on election day vote for you more times than they vote for the other guy(s) running for the same office.

Now, only a very small fraction of those voting will have done any extensive homework on the general policy views of alternative candidates. Basically, they don't count, so you don't spend a lot of time on them. If there are a couple of Big Issues, you either lie about your position on those or you say noncommital things that can be interpreted in various ways. You, of course, are always for Good Things and Good Guys and are very much against Bad Things and Bad Guys. You loudly proclaim those views.

So, how can you differentiate yourself from your opposition? It is really very simple. You have your face plastered everywhere - by people who really know how to touch up a face. You have cute slogans made up and plastered next to your face. You do the equivalent of buying media people who can talk you up.You spend a lot of time kissing babies and you promise everyone with an economic interest or a contrary economic interest that you are "their man" and will work for their interests.

It seems pretty straightforward. Just ask yourself what you'd do in a room full of people with 80 I.Q.s and do it. Of course, all that publicity and all that traveling around, and the cosmetologists and the couturiers and writers and PR people are expensive - to say nothing of the fact that you won't be doing anything productive with your time for months on end. So there are naturally those who want to help out so you will remember them when you ascend the throne.

It really isn't that difficult.

8lriley
Feb 1, 2012, 8:46am Top

#7--LOL. Unfortunately everything in your post is right on target.

Speaking of the 80 I.Q.s--kind of reminds me of an in-law from Pennsylvania. Votes Democratic every election--no matter what. After Santorum (two terms--12 years as Senator from Pennsylvania--now running for POTUS) got crushed by Bob Casey--I mentioned (and I'm from NYS) to him 'at least you got rid of Santorum'--he rants and raves all the time but he had no idea who I was talking about. And it's both sides. My sister was talking up Gingrich not so long ago and it was as if he just dropped in on us out of nowhere--she ha(s)d no idea of his history.

These elections have really come down to just being equivalent to high school popularity contests.

In any case lobbyists these days write laws regarding the industries they represent. Favored politicians just get to put their names on the legislation. 'Yeah, that's mine. I wrote all that!' If you represent Big Oil or Big Pharma--sure, you're going to worry more about consumer protections over the profitability of the multi-national that employs you. And if you're a politician with ambitions of getting reelected and especially if you've already had your hand out--yeah, the people come first. Right--Corporations are people too.

9richardbsmith
Feb 1, 2012, 8:49am Top

"It really isn't that difficult."

I guess not.

Maybe simply having the position to wield influence and power is motivation enough to sell some of that influence and power to have the funds to pay for the chance to win election.

Power is its own reward?

10richardbsmith
Edited: Feb 1, 2012, 9:05am Top

Yes, I was going to flag lawecon's comment 7 for being an ad hominem attack of politicians, but I decided that I agreed with it.

11Bretzky1
Feb 1, 2012, 12:23pm Top

While we sometimes deride politicians as just in it for themselves, I think it's important not to underestimate the degree to which many members of Congress believe that what they are doing is for the good of the country, or, at least for their constituents. The idea of giving access and influence in exchange for campaign donations in such a case arises from the elected official's belief that "If I don't get re-elected, then the person who replaces me will be even worse in doing the bidding of these special interests." He believes that it's better for him to give in a little in one area than to resist entirely, which would then let someone into office who would really be bad for the country.

I have no idea of knowing how prevalent this type of thinking is in Congress, but I wouldn't be surprised if it obtained among well over half of the members.

12krolik
Feb 1, 2012, 1:07pm Top

Just a brief aside, in regard to the references in a few posts to people with 80 IQs:

Yes, I wouldn't want to put them in charge of the country. But it is also true, and not mere sentimentality, to remark that the mentally disabled often display traits (e.g., humility) that I have witnessed and respect, and which I've noticed some of my peers at my university workplace lack, to their detriment.

13lriley
Feb 1, 2012, 2:00pm Top

#12--well my sister who I reference in #8 is hardly an 80 IQ--she's just ignorant as far as politics. Most people don't dig very hard--they just follow their predilections. It seems a very high % of people aren't even sure what they want--it's as if more often than not they need to be told what they want.

14Jesse_wiedinmyer
Feb 1, 2012, 5:12pm Top

I was going to flag lawecon's comment 7 for being an ad hominem attack of politicians, but I decided that I agreed with it.

1) Provided the politician in question doesn't post here, it's not a violation of the TOS.
2) The fact that you agree with a sentiment doesn't make it any less of a TOS violation if it is one.

15richardbsmith
Edited: Feb 1, 2012, 5:43pm Top

Jesse,
I was trying to make a joke, but I typically fail pretty badly with my attempts at humor.

16Jesse_wiedinmyer
Feb 1, 2012, 5:44pm Top

Ah. My apologies.

17richardbsmith
Feb 1, 2012, 5:45pm Top

None needed. I have been slammed often enough for my weak jokes to have learned by now.

18Jesse_wiedinmyer
Feb 1, 2012, 5:55pm Top

When engaging in parody, it often helps to make it look somewhat different than reality.

19richardbsmith
Feb 1, 2012, 6:10pm Top

I have been told I am lacking in my use of emoticons.

20steve.clason
Feb 2, 2012, 11:05pm Top

I hate to clutter up the thread with book references, but Robert S. Kaiser's recent So Damn Much Money covers the ground of the OP pretty well.

21lawecon
Edited: Feb 3, 2012, 8:33am Top

~14

Joke or not, since Jesse wants to be technically correct, let's be technically correct.

Technically, post #7 could never be a TOS violation and should never be flagged (according to TOS). It says true things about a class of persons. When complying with TOS you can say untrue and very derogatory things about any class of persons. You can say, for instance, that those who work in any of the fields of computer technology are uniformly nurdish self-important idiots. No TOS violation at all. There can even be a high percentage of such persons who post to these forums. Still no TOS violation. You can also say really vile things about public figures or your next door neighbor, still no TOS violation unless they are IDENTIFIABLE posters to these forum. (If they post under an online name, as most of us do, no violation.)

Now here is a really interesting experiment. Why doesn't someone adopt the online name "The Tea Party" or "Christians" or "Newt Gingrich" or whoever or whatever is the evil demon of the day. Then all of those over the edge posts that one sees in these Forums, the ones involving frothing at the mouth, WOULD BE TOS violations. Presto chango.

Perhaps the above suggests something about TOS to certain people, but evidentially it doesn't suggest anything negative.

22lawecon
Feb 3, 2012, 8:32am Top

Now that I've got that off my chest, back on the thread topic: I am still somewhat confused about this concern about "lobby money." Those who have this concern surely understand that "our Great American System" (as Henry Clay use to call it) is one of reciprocal plunder.

You want to steal from your neighbor to get do-nothing jobs for yourself and your no account brother in law. You go lobby to get a law past to create a bureau "for the public good." (Since you are obviously the expert on this law, who else could be hired to consult for it?)

You want a bridge that saves you a 10 mile commute, just get a law passed that has other people paying for it. You can use arguments about "stimulating our local economy."

This is what government is for, at least what it has been for in all but the rarest periods in the rarest societies that abide by something like these prescriptions The Law. So why deny people the obvious right to pool their money to buy the laws they want?

23lriley
Feb 3, 2012, 9:22am Top

#22--obviously there's the problem then where you have someone or entity that has so much wealth that they don't really need to pool together with others to buy whatever they want. And actually if you have enough ready cash you can buy your own army--outfit that army with the latest and best equipment. Or in the case of Mayor Bloomberg--you can buy the office of Mayor of NYC by collectively outspending all comers and parsing yourself as a middle of the road independent and then later on after whack a moling a few peasants you can describe your very own NYPD as your very own private army. No need in his case to payroll his own army--the taxpayer will do it for him.

The original good guy intent of having government provide services is more than less about equal distribution to one and all--to cover communities from sea to shining sea with liberty and justice for all. Hard to write that without laughing and if there ever were any good guys (or gals) overseeing anything--they're an extinct animal now. But generally people want to go on believing things are generally fair. They want to believe in their local politicians, their favorite news channel or favorite political radio jock, they want to believe in their police and that America's international intentions are lily white--and that the CIA are great guys and not just an alternative version of the KGB.

24lawecon
Feb 3, 2012, 1:20pm Top

I guess I still don't get it. If someone is rich enough to buy an army, do you really think that they're going to be stopped by a law against lobbying? Wouldt you rather that they lobby or blow you up?

25BruceCoulson
Feb 3, 2012, 1:51pm Top

Businesses don't buy armies; armies are expensive and don't generate revenue. Lobbyists, on the other hand, DO generate revenue (and a lot of it). From a business perspective, spending money on lobbyists is a highly profitable investment at this time; they'd be fools (and in violation of business ethics) if they failed to do so.

Abd although the business model of government would certainly indicate that being able to buy the most profitable laws for your company is only proper, in reality that tends to break down. For one thing, other businesses are spending money to promote their laws, which may not benefit you. Also, passing such laws promotes a general contempt for the law; something that again, in the long run, is neither to society's or business (which is dependent on that society) ultimate best interest.

(e.g look at the damage done to society by buying a law against the consumption of alcohol.)

26lriley
Feb 3, 2012, 4:02pm Top

The Blackwater people (they go by another name now) are an example of the merging of business and military interests. They are not the only ones in this field. The militarization of police forces as well have a business connected element.

27lawecon
Feb 3, 2012, 4:40pm Top

~25

Hey, you must have read the link I posted in #22. What a change !!

28richardbsmith
Feb 3, 2012, 5:24pm Top

What I still don't get is who they are buying it from. Is money paid just as a contribution to a campaign enough to turn a public servant.

Is the elected position so valuable a prize that someone might sell their influence?

Why does lobby money buy such influence? That is my question. It just seems to me that there is something I am missing about how valuable the elected position is to the office holder, or lobby money that can only be used for the campaign would not carry such purchasing power.

29BruceCoulson
Feb 3, 2012, 6:11pm Top

>28 richardbsmith:

In order to get elected in the United States at this time, you need money. Lots of money. More money than anyone except some of the 1% have. (And they don't want to spend their own money; that's how they remain the 1%.)

So, you need campaign contributions. Millions of dollars of contributions. If you tried to collect that amount from the members of your party in your district/state...well, it's just not feasible. Small donation amounts (what you or I might give) aren't going to be turned down; but they're not enough.

That leaves lobbyists. It's not that every elected official wants to sell out; that's speculation, and beside the point. In order to keep their job, they HAVE to raise those millions of dollars. The lobbyists, in turn, get access. When they want to speak to a Representative or Senator about upcoming legislation, or about legislations the lobbyist would like to see introduced...they get their appointment rather quickly.

Now, this doesn't mean that the lobbyist gets what they want, all of it, all the time. There are other lobbyists, with their own agendas. There are the other politicians, who are both being influenced by their lobbyists and have personal agendas as well. And our elected representative has to weigh what course of action will offend the least amount of voters as well.

But being able to get an interview and the ear of your selected politician virtually at will represents a lot of influence. There's also the fact that many lobbyists are much better educated on the particular topic they're advocating than the official they're speaking to. It's a quick way for a representative to get a crash course (albeit a biased one) on an obscure topic.

As for the elected position being so valuable that people will do the above; it represents status and influence. There have always been, and always will, be people for whom this is a reward beyond measure.

30richardbsmith
Feb 3, 2012, 7:16pm Top

Thanks Bruce,

That is the point I am trying to understand, why the elected position is so valuable that the campaign contributions have so much influence.

I personally do not think the value is from any status inherent in the elected position, although there may be such vanity out there. I still think the incentive is more tangible than the satisfaction from a status image.

There is evidently no direct personal benefit from the pool of excess campaign funds, so the incentive must lie in the position or perhaps in the mere pursuit of the position.

Influence seems a possible motive. I am thinking that the incentive is not so much that the politician is able to gain the ability to influence for positions they hold, but maybe that the politician is able to market that influence which the politician has as a result of their present or previous position.

Without listing names, there sure seems to be a high paying demand for connected politicians. Perhaps that is tiered down even to the lower levels of politics sufficiently to make even the local elected position worth the work.

31BruceCoulson
Feb 3, 2012, 7:25pm Top

From a strictly mercantile perspective, being elected to Federal office is very lucrative, not from the salary (although I wouldn't turn my nose up at $125k/year, which I believe is the Congressional salary) and various perks, but from a retirement perspective (should the worst happen and you lose an election) and probable re-employment in an industry you once helped regulate.

You're also, within the narrow world of Washington D.C. a minor celebrity. You have your own office, your own staff (all paid for by the government), invitations to various parties, and people who pay attention to you (and even for someone who realizes this flattery is only because of the office, it's a heady experience). You're part of a small (535) member club; one of the 'In" crowd.

And I wouldn't discount status as a motivator; militaries have been using it for some time with great success. Status has perks; it can also bring monetary benefits, access to good-looking people for (ahem) social interaction, and other tangible and intangible rewards.

32richardbsmith
Feb 3, 2012, 7:42pm Top

I guess so Bruce. I just can't help thinking I am missing something.

We had a guy here in TN who was caught with some other in sting. He accepted $3000 for voting yes to something. When all came out, he said that he thought thhe $3000 was a gratuity for voting his conscience. It certainly was not a bribe and had absolutely zero influence. He just graciously accepted the tip, kind of like you know a waiter.

Except of course the good service was to the general public not just the person who left the tip.

So here is this guy who has served the public here in Tennessee for 50 years or so, thinking a $3000 tip is acceptable.

That tells me that such a tip is normal, business as usual.

I just think I am missing something about how lobbying works.

Thanks for your time and patience. :)

33krolik
Feb 4, 2012, 3:04am Top

>32 richardbsmith:
So here is this guy who has served the public here in Tennessee for 50 years or so, thinking a $3000 tip is acceptable.

More likely, that's what he said he thought?

Sounds like a lame alibi, after getting caught doing something illegal.

34lawecon
Feb 4, 2012, 10:39am Top

~28

"What I still don't get is who they are buying it from. Is money paid just as a contribution to a campaign enough to turn a public servant."

"Turn" "public servant"? Do you really think that there is some sort of easily identifiable objective "public good" that a "servant" is being "turned" from pursuing? Really? Amazing. Could you tell us what that objective public interest is with respect to ANY public policy issue?

35richardbsmith
Feb 4, 2012, 12:51pm Top

No.

36lawecon
Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 8:26pm Top

Neither could I. That is why I don't speak in such vacuous slogans. In fact, I'm reasonably certain that most of those who give money to candidates don't conceive of themselves as corrupting them to work against the "public good." Nor do I believe that many candidates believe themselves to be so omniscient that they already know with certainty the "public good" and conceive that they are acting against the public good by accepting a particular donation.

But I'm sure that Fox News and many of the posters to these threads would disagree.

37richardbsmith
Edited: Feb 4, 2012, 8:38pm Top

Rather than an objective public good, which as far as I can tell was not my wording, and I know was not my intention to discuss, might we discuss the role of servanthood.

Given the best of one's ability and accepting that reasonable people will have a disparity of opinion as to the public good, which does a public servant serve, the represented constituent or the moneyed contributer who may not be from the public servant's district?

Rather than an objective public good, not my language, I would like to talk about who the public servant serves. That is closer to my language, and to my question.

38richardbsmith
Feb 4, 2012, 8:46pm Top

Accepting a particular donation

There are billions contributed. Are these billions that are contributed given with the intention of influencing public policy.

My assumption is that they are so intended.

My question is if they accomplish that intention, and why they are they so effective.

If they don't work, if they don't influence public policy, then I have no follow up question, your honor.

39lawecon
Edited: Feb 5, 2012, 1:32am Top

~37

"Rather than an objective public good, not my language, I would like to talk about who the public servant serves. That is closer to my language, and to my question."

Well, here's the problem: since you apparently agree that there is no "objective" "public interest" someone has to decide which version of the "the public interest" is going to effectuated. Now maybe you think that "The People" should decide. If so, you might want to look up and revive the thread on direct democracy in which several of our regulars were adamant that it was a VERY VERY bad idea that "The People" decide. http://www.librarything.com/topic/125717 (I, incidentally, was on the other side, but eventually gave up when it became clear that such a position had virtually no support among those who "knew," intuitively, what was ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.)

Now certainly it is true that if you ask a "public servant" "Who do you serve?" they will, of course, answer "The People." Then if you say to them, as did this guy with virtually every member of Congress The Power of Congress (as Congress Sees It) "Well, then, here is what The People want on this topic" (cite opinion poll showing overwhelming support for a certain stance on a certain issue) they will say back to you, "No, I mean that I serve the interest of The People. They have elected me to determine what constitutes such interest."

So you see, the shift in emphasis in your quotation above gets you right back to the same place. Put differently, this is a "representative democracy" where what you vote for most of the time is "representatives" who make decisions for you.

Further, this is an absolute district (winner takes all) representative democracy, where the choice is almost always between two alternative rulers, neither of whom has a clear cut ideological stance. This differs markedly from a proportional representative system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation Even if "we had" a proportional representative system, however, there would be no legal obligation for a representative or party to keep its campaign promises, as there are legal obligations for an actual agent to abide by his commitments. See, e.g., http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-11-02/news/0211020124_1_promises-taxes-m...

So "public servants" of course "serve The Public." But they "serve" only their own conception of what constitutes "The Public Interest." They aren't agents of anyone in particular, other than themselves.

Get it?

40SimonW11
Feb 5, 2012, 5:20am Top


28> "Is the elected position so valuable a prize that someone might sell their influence?"

What is being sold is not influence but the position.
The contributors pay for the position. If you want that job you have to buy it from the contributors. You buy it with your loyalty to them.

There are plenty of people who wont sell their loyalty thinking it is owed to the people not their contributors. Since the position is in the gift of the contributors such honourable men and women do not get chosen.

41richardbsmith
Feb 5, 2012, 7:42am Top

Thanks LawEcon and SimonW11.

Then there is not problem with the billions put in by Wall Street and the many other large moneyed interests. That is ultimately my question, why the fuss about the big bucks being contributed to political coffers.

So much is commented in many places lamenting the massive influence of massive lobby money.

My question is where is the influence? How does lobby money influence policy? There is no direct money benefit other than funds to campaign, to earn the position.

Why the fuss about lobby money? Much ado about nothing?

One of my favorite FB buddies of a very liberal persuasion is currently up against Monsanto. Well Monsanto cannot be influencing policy because the massive funds they contribute are innocuous to policy.

Much press is spent tracking lobby money - but the funds don't get to the policy maker's pockets, directly. They go to advertisers.

What then is the problem with lobby money?

Why does anyone care who is funding the campaigns? Campaign money does not influence policy.

42jjwilson61
Feb 5, 2012, 10:37am Top

39> Now maybe you think that "The People" should decide. If so, you might want to look up and revive the thread on direct democracy in which several of our regulars were adamant that it was a VERY VERY bad idea that "The People" decide.

The disagreement in that thread was more about the impracticality of having the people vote on every issue in the national and state and presumably city legislatures rather than whether it would be theoretically good or bad if they somehow had the time to do so.

43lawecon
Feb 5, 2012, 9:58pm Top

~42

And the presumption that you are making, as you were making before,(but never defending) was that elected "representatives" carefully analyze each measure on which they vote. Of course, they do no such thing. Many of the bills they vote on are hundreds of pages long. Some are a thousand pages long. Most involve technical terminology that the average Congresscritter doesn't have a clue about.

You see, jj, Congresscritters aren't rewarded for their careful consideration and their rational votes. They are rewarded for getting their names out in a positive way and for speaking noncommital pleasantries when asked about issues. If The People don't have the time to make decisions directly on public issues, they certainly don't have time to monitor "their representatives," how they vote or why they vote the way they vote, do they?

44Lunar
Feb 5, 2012, 11:25pm Top

#41: Then there is not problem with the billions put in by Wall Street and the many other large moneyed interests.

Certainly not a problem when compared to the hundreds of billions they get back in bailouts and regulatory tweaks. Kind of makes you wonder who's really bribing whom with the way politicians pimp out the taxpayers' money.

45BruceCoulson
Feb 6, 2012, 10:54am Top

Businesses would not spend money to lobby politicians if there was no return on their investment.

Businesses are concerned solely with their profits; usually profits for a quarter, although sometimes they can see as far as a year in advance.

This means, theoretically, a proposed law that will generate incredible profits for three quarters, but cause the entire society and country to collapse in the fourth quarter, would be perfectly reasonable from a business perspective.

Much of the problem stems from the fact that the government has large sums of money to spend. Businesses rarely spend much money lobbying an election for mayor in a town of 10,000 people, for instance.

Obviously, how, where, how much, and for what a government spends money is a part of public policy; businesses (quite reasonably, from their p.o.v.) want to get as much of that money as possible. Hence the current wave of privatization of everything, even functions that were never intended to be profitable, and become highly distorted when attempts are made to make them profitable.

46steve.clason
Feb 7, 2012, 12:52pm Top

From the Washington Post: "A U.S. senator from Alabama directed more than $100 million in federal earmarks to renovate downtown Tuscaloosa near his own commercial office building. A congressman from Georgia secured $6.3 million in taxpayer funds to replenish the beach about 900 feet from his island vacation cottage."

Lobby money buys them their seat -- their seat buys them the beaches. Of course their going to do what it takes to keep the money rolling in -- being in congress is both fun and rewarding.

47richardbsmith
Feb 7, 2012, 3:31pm Top

I saw that yesterday, I just could not get the article to load fully enough to read it. Maybe there will be more come out on that investigation.

48richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 9, 2012, 7:18am Top

Jesse pointed this book review out to me.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/mar/22/our-corrupt-politics-its-no...

It makes some sense of the questions that have bothered me, questions that I could not even well frame.

the gist: "Lessig’s book is a theory of how decent souls have come together to create an indecent system. At its core is the idea of the “gift economy"

Money and lobby influence - "neither is much of a help when it comes to the major clashes in American politics. You need a theory of general relativity to explain the big stuff. And that theory is partisan polarization."

"But in the end, it didn’t decide (for the big headline issues) which votes ended up in the “nay” column and which ended up in the “aye” column. The leadership of the two parties did. Which is to say that while moneyed interests are decisive in passing laws and influencing provisions that few Americans care about, they’re much weaker on the issues where Americans are actually watching."

Thanks Jesse.

49lawecon
Edited: Mar 9, 2012, 4:00pm Top

Yah, well, maybe this theme of a diminished public morality is correct. It is certainly a theme that I hear in many professional fields about the "good old days" when practitioners had "standards, morals and integrity." Somehow, however, I doubt it.

I can't help but remember that the same point was made about the Presidency of the U.S. by historians writing about Monroe and the Monroe administration - purportedly one of the most corrupt politicians in American history. Further, I can't help but remember accounts like this one The Whiskey Rebellion that portray George Washington as having strict standards in office, but having no morals at all when it came to dealing in the bonds issued by the revolutionary congresses or acquisition of Western land holdings.

50richardbsmith
Mar 9, 2012, 4:30pm Top

In that article the point is made that 19th c politics were far more blatantly corrupt. The distinction now is the great influence of lobbyists, and that it is in ways that are more difficult to monitor and to regulate.

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