Lobbyists have controlled much of what has happened in Congress over the past several years and that hasn’t been good for the vast majority of American citizens. Corporations, industries, labor unions, governments and other special interests spent a record $2.79 billion in 2007 to lobby in Washington, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. This represents an increase of $200 million over similar spending in 2006. For every day Congress was in session, industries and interests spent an average of $17 million to lobby lawmakers and the federal government at large. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the 25-year-old watchdog group, observed:
At a time when our economy is contracting, Washington’s lobbying industry has been expanding. Lobbying seems to be a recession-proof industry.
CRP, which tracks lobbying spending on its Web site, OpenSecrets.org, found that, for the second straight year, health interests spent $444.7 million on federal lobbying, more than any other economic sector. The finance, insurance and real estate sector was second, spending about $418.7 million. Looking more specifically within the larger sectors the Center tracks, the pharmaceuticals/health products industry outspent all industries by spending $227 million for lobbying services for the 164 days that the 110th Congress met in 2007. The drug industry has spent $1.3 billion on federal lobbying over the last ten years, more than any other industry, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise. This industry’s spending on its reported lobbying increased 25% in 2007.
The second-biggest spender among industries in 2007 was insurance, which spent $138 million on lobbying, followed by electric utilities, which spent $112.7 million, the computers/Internet industry, which spent $110.6 million, and hospitals and nursing homes, which paid lobbyists at least $90.5 million. The securities and investment industry, which ranked sixth, spent $87.3 million, increasing its lobbying 40% over 2006. The biggest single spender in 2007 was again the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber and its affiliates spent nearly $52.8 million on in-house lobbyists and with K Street firms.
The American people should realize by now that their voice is seldom heard in Washington and that powerful special interests run the show in all branches of the federal government. Lobbyists are literally the unofficial fourth branch of government and they have more power than most folks could ever imagine. Until this strangle-hold is broken, ordinary citizens will continue to struggle. Hopefully, we will see a clean break in this control after the November elections.
Source: Insurance Journal
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