The Case for Lobbyists

9 years ago
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I am always a little amused when the same people who point to lobbyists as eek, shriek, somehow evil or malevolent, are usually the same people who want to tinker the tax code. As an example, a liberal writer on a recent thread in a political post asserted that William Timmons, a Washington lobbyist, is on McCain's team.  She didn't explain why this should be alarming. The assumption was that we would know.

Where do lobbyists come from? What do lobbyists do? Why should we fear them?

Lobbyists are people who attempt to persuade members of government to a certain point of view that is beneficial to themselves or to their clients.  Yes, they have access. Yes, they are influential.

There is a certain amount of confusion regarding the actual numbers of registered lobbyists. www.lobbyistsinfo.com reports 22,000 registered lobbyists. A couple of years ago, the Washington Post speculated the number is about 37,000. I suspect the number is vastly higher and doesn't reflect the numbers of aides, corporate staffers, etc., who perform lobbying activities. But, no matter, the general consensus is whether 22,000 or 100,000, there are too many lobbyists. 

Both campaigns have publicly eschewed lobbyists. I guess they think we're so stupid we can't figure out that Jim Johnson, Obama's guy for vetting vice presidential picks until he had to step aside, was an influential Washington lobbyist.  (Among his other accomplishments, he was CEO of Fannie Mae in the 1990s.) The aforementioned William Timmons was a well regarded Washington lobbyist for many years.

Who do lobbyists represent? They represent nurses, unions, teachers, seniors, a vast number of not-for-profits and, of course, evil corporations, including the oil and gas industry that is already taxed at about 40 percent.

So, why do all these organizations, not-for-profit and for-profit, need lobbyists? Because they want their point of view before a Congress that is distributing vast, nearly unimaginable sums of money, and writing myriad laws and regulations.  Lobbyists are paid to ensure their constituencies benefit. They're also paid, as in the case of the oil and gas industry, to ensure they won't be hurt further by politicial pandering.

Under the new president, whomever he is, new legislation addressing energy, taxes, healthcare, etc., will be written.  The lobbying that will accompany all this will be robust, to say the least.  

Of course, these groups have the right to hire lobbyists. The first amendment gives all of us the right to "petition a government for the redress of grievances."

Still hate lobbyists? There is a simple solution for getting rid of them (or most of them, anyway). Flatten the tax code. Eliminate earmarks. That'll do the trick since 99% of lobbyists are registered to lobby on tax issues.

No.  I didn't think so.