We have witnessed a great deal of corruption in both government and in the private sector over the years. Corruption in the corporate board rooms of America is now at an all time high. It’s been well documented that much of the corruption is aided and abetted by powerful corporate lobbyists. Lobbying and bribery – when it comes to dealing with public officials – are thought by some to be closely related. On occasion, I will admit it’s very hard to draw the line between legitimate issue advocacy and outright corruption. Much of the attention on this subject has to be focused on the influence of lobbyists both in Congress and in influencing the various governmental regulatory agencies in Washington.
The laws regulating lobbying – both at the national and state levels – are so lax that lobbyists can come very close to bribing public officials with no fear of even being accused of violating any laws. The goal of lobbyists is to make government officials depend on them for financing and support in elections and the funneling of money into campaigns is done within the laws presently on the books which are very weak. I suggest you read a book by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, entitled Creative Capitalism. In the book Reich argues that the only thing corporations can do to make life better for the people around them is to “refrain from flooding Washington and any other seat of government with so many lobbyists and campaign contributions so as to stymie democracy.” Over the past several years, K-Street lobbyists have more power and influence over what happens in our nation’s capital than most folks could ever imagine.
Bribery is easily regulated because we all know it’s a crime. In such instances, somebody is trying to break a rule. But getting existing rules changed, on the other hand, is accepted as part of the democratic system. Most of the time ordinary citizens have no concept of who all is lobbying in our Nation’s Capital. Even if they know about them, few people have any idea what the object of their lobbying really is. Feelings about lobbyists generally depend on who they’re lobbying for and how visible they are. The lobbying industry in Washington has been labeled the fourth branch of government and that’s generally bad news for ordinary folks.
The only way to remove lobbyists and their corruptive influence is for powerful corporations and interest groups to voluntarily disarm and for people to get support for their own causes. Since people are not in Washington and have little contact with their elected representative, getting anything done is most difficult. The only other alternative is to elect and appoint people who are entirely incorruptible and thus free from the undue influence of powerful lobbyists. Since none of this is likely to ever happen, we will have to live with the lobbyists and do our best to control them. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will be able to at least curtail the power of lobbyists in Washington. The President was elected by real people and that’s why I have to be encouraged about the prospects of his being free of special interest control.
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