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So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying…

So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American… (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Robert G. Kaiser

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964125,712 (3.38)2
Title:So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government
Authors:Robert G. Kaiser
Info:Knopf (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 416 pages
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So damn much money: the triumph of lobbying and the corrosion of American government by Robert G. Kaiser (2009)



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If you're anything of an idealist about the American system of government, this book might just break your heart. Not to say that our government is irretrievably flawed, but it's been significantly corrupted over the decades by the powerful influence of money. It's a well researched book, but it does read much like a research paper. While it detailed the growth, development, and tactics of lobbying in DC since the 1970s, what made the book interesting was the use of the Cassidy & Associates as its vehicle. We see how one individual was able to find a competitive niche, create an industry, and exploit it for over four decades. Insights into Cassidy's personal and professional relationships and the off-camera antics of prominent politicians of years past were also illuminating. Not a great book, but it should be required reading for anyone studying politics in the U.S. ( )
1 vote traumleben | Dec 3, 2012 |
Over the last thirty years lobbying has become a $4 billion industry in Washington, DC. Focusing on the story of Gerald Cassidy, one of the most successful early players in the business, Kaiser looks at the rise of earmarks and the influence of new campaign strategies to explain the interconnection between logrolling, campaign finance, corporate interests and policymaking. He makes it clear that we are collectively responsible for the corrosion of democracy that results from this new system. ( )
1 vote EricAbrahamson | Jul 26, 2010 |
The book was 60% the lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates and 40% about the political climate that allowed them to prosper. My main interest in reading the book was in the political and cultural movements since '75 or so which have caused governance to crash against that huge wall of money, and though I got some information, I got a lot more about the lifestyles of wealthy lobbyinsts.

I found it hard to read because of that, having to slog through personal histories for a political nugget. I don't normally keep on a book for two months, pure hunger for the sparse subject matter kept me slogging away at it.

I have to think there are better books on the abandomnent of governance by our elected officials, but I continue to struggle to find one. My recommendation is that you avoid this one and join the struggle.. ( )
1 vote steve.clason | Apr 16, 2010 |
After seeing Kaiser on a segment on Bill Moyers Journal, I was intrigued enough to buy his book. He follows the career of Gerry Cassidy, one of Washington’s most important lobbyists, to show us the deterioration of politics and the increasing influence of money: lobbying, earmarks, and campaign funding. The book shows how endemic the corruption is: it is bipartisan and thoroughly entrenched. Kaiser shows how the corruption blossoms, tactic by tactic, sinking its roots ever deeper into the fabric of Washington politics. He offers a few ideas in the final chapter for reforms that might be able to fix the problem, but offers scant hope that they will be implemented without considerably more pressure coming from the citizenry. ( )
2 vote slothman | Apr 24, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
Fascinating...[Kaiser] provides a thoroughly researched expose on the modern lobbying industry in America...This is important reading for understanding the relationship between lobbying, legislation, and elections over the last thirty years.
Excellent...illuminating...Kaiser's narrative skills are formidable.
Fascinating and well told...Kaiser amply demonstrates what [money] has done in Washington...Could not be timelier.
Kaiser's account dwells less on blatant corruption than on what is perfectly, depressingly legal. Lobbyists, for all their policy-shaping aspirations, come across as simple bagmen, conveying cash between buyers in the private sector and all-too-willing sellers in Congress.
added by keeper3014 | editThe New Yorker (Jan 26, 2009)
A triumph...We're introduced to all the tricks of the lobbying trade; we watch public servants reap private rewards as lobbyists. Is it true elections are bought and sold? It's all here...Not a pretty tale, but essential reading for today.
added by keeper3014 | editThe Providence Journal, Jeanne Nicholson (Jan 20, 2009)
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I seen my opportunities and I took 'em.
- George Washington Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, early 1900s
For Paul Corso and Andy Sumner; who kept me in the game
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In the early hours of February 22, 2004 -- a cool, clear, late-winter day -- copies of the fat Sunday edition of The Washington Post landed on doorsteps and driveways throughout the nation's capital and its booming suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307266540, Hardcover)

Book Description
The startling story of the monumental growth of lobbying in Washington, D.C., and how it undermines effective government and pollutes our politics.

A true insider, Robert G. Kaiser has monitored American politics for The Washington Post for nearly half a century. In this sometimes shocking and always riveting book, he explains how and why, over the last four decades, Washington became a dysfunctional capital. At the heart of his story is money--money made by special interests using campaign contributions and lobbyists to influence government decisions, and money demanded by congressional candidates to pay for their increasingly expensive campaigns, which can cost a staggering sum. In 1974, the average winning campaign for the Senate cost $437,000; by 2006, that number had grown to $7.92 million. The cost of winning House campaigns grew comparably: $56,500 in 1974, $1.3 million in 2006.

Politicians’ need for money and the willingness, even eagerness, of special interests and lobbyists to provide it explain much of what has gone wrong in Washington. They have created a mutually beneficial, mutually reinforcing relationship between special interests and elected representatives, and they have created a new class in Washington, wealthy lobbyists whose careers often begin in public service. Kaiser shows us how behavior by public officials that was once considered corrupt or improper became commonplace, how special interests became the principal funders of elections, and how our biggest national problems--health care, global warming, and the looming crises of Medicare and Social Security, among others--have been ignored as a result.

Kaiser illuminates this progression through the saga of Gerald S. J. Cassidy, a Jay Gatsby for modern Washington. Cassidy came to Washington in 1969 as an idealistic young lawyer determined to help feed the hungry. Over the course of thirty years, he built one of the city’s largest and most profitable lobbying firms and accumulated a personal fortune of more than $100 million. Cassidy’s story provides an unprecedented view of lobbying from within the belly of the beast.

A timely and tremendously important book that finally explains how Washington really works today, and why it works so badly.

Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Robert G. Kaiser

Last fall the House of Representatives set off a sudden collapse of the stock market by voting against the first version of the “bailout” legislation that had been hurriedly written to try to stabilize American banks and other financial institutions. Supporters of the bailout scrambled to change the legislation in ways that would win support for it from a majority of Congressmen. In a matter of days new provisions were added: extension of an excise-tax rebate for makers of Puerto Rican rum (cost to the Treasury, $192 million); extension of a special tax break for the owners of stock car racing tracks (cost, $100 million); a tax break for makers of movies within the borders of the United States (cost over ten years, $478 million) and more. These “sweeteners”--a revealing bit of Washington jargon--did the trick. Days after rejecting the $750 billion bailout, the House approved it.

This dreary sequence was evidence of a fact that careful students of Washington’s ways had realized for some time: In the first decade of the new millennium, the government of the United States was broken. It had taken three decades to create the mess. Democrats and Republicans had collaborated in its creation, and as that story of the sweetening of the bailout bill makes clear, money was at the heart of the problem.

Those sweeteners were payoffs of a kind--spending proposals that would allow the politicians promoting them to boast of their own influence in Washington, hoping to win votes in the process. Spending on the favored projects of Senators and Congressmen had grown exponentially since Republicans took over congress in 1994 and decided that they could defend their majorities if their members could bring home a lot of bacon. Hence the explosion of the legislative provisions called “earmarks” that John McCain assailed in his presidential campaign.

But money became a dominant factor in more insidious ways. Over the 30 years, opinion polls, focus groups and television commercials became the most effective tools to win elections, and all of them were expensive. So were the consultants whom candidates hired to make their commercials, shape their campaigns, even choose the issues they would run on. To win a politician needed a lot of money. Money could elect someone to office who never addressed important matters that affect ordinary Americans’ lives. Money elects candidates who have no real philosophy of governance nor a coherent view of the world. The result has been unreal politics--candidates winning or losing office on the basis of their positions on social issues essentially unrelated to governance, for example.

Not addressing problems has become easy in a political environment distorted by money. In these three decades when money became so important in Washington, Congress lost much of its effectiveness as a governing institution. Running for reelection became more important than running the country, or keeping an eye on the exercise of executive power--the roles the Founders envisioned for the House and Senate. The quality of governance in the United States had declined palpably in these years.

(Photo © Lucian Perkins)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:50 -0400)

The story of the monumental growth of lobbying in Washington, D.C., and how it undermines effective government and pollutes our politics.

(summary from another edition)

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