While President Obama is working hard to make lobbying more transparent, Congress must also do its part. The tremendous influence and power of special interest lobbyists have been major reasons for the severe economic problems our country has experienced over the past months. These lobbyists never work for the common good, but instead work effectively for the corporate interests that pay them. A prime example of how powerful these lobbyists are involves the federal stimulus money. Their efforts to secure billions in economic stimulus money is something we do not need at this time.
Federal agencies are required to disclose on their websites when they are contacted by registered lobbyists about stimulus funds. Interestingly, only 70 comments have been revealed thus far. Ten departments have posted no such contacts according to USA Today. There were 24 departments and agencies committed to spending stimulus money that were reviewed by USA Today.
President Obama pledged during his campaign to reduce the power of lobbyists and special interests in Washington. Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had this to say:
We’re looking to have more disclosure, not less. If this were supposed to give us more disclosure, why is it that you are not seeing lobbyists’ communications?
In March, the President banned federal employees from discussing specific stimulus projects with registered federal lobbyists. Broad policy discussions are permitted, but must be disclosed on department websites. It’s been reported that lobbying for stimulus funds has been indentified by companies and that the lobbyists have been very effective. Craig Holman, who is with Public Citizen, believes the rules which were released on April 7th are a good first step in improving transparency in lobbying. In this regard, he had this to say:
Disclosing lobbying contacts is one of the most valuable pieces of information on influence peddling both on Capitol Hill and the Executive Branch. The Administration is trying to cope with how to make it actually happen.
It should be noted that several former Bush officials are in a revolving door situation in Washington. Ten of 34 cabinet members have taken private-sector jobs related to their previous positions in the federal government. That should never be tolerated – for obvious reasons – until a set number of years elapses from the last day of service. Our government in Washington will never be able to get spending under control – and furnish all of the programs and services needed – until such time as the lobbyists in Washington are controlled and their power and influence curtailed sharply.
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