Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 15, 2009

PULLING THE STRINGS.... Nothing inspires confidence in Congress more than having lawmakers almost literally reading the script prepared for them by lobbyists.

In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world's largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.

Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug giant Roche, estimates that 42 House members picked up some of its talking points -- 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats, an unusual bipartisan coup for lobbyists.

Now, don't necessarily expect tomorrow's "Daily Show" to have a segment featuring dozens of lawmakers repeating the identical lobbyist-written words over and over again. That's not quite how this worked.

The Congressional Record includes the transcript of what lawmakers said on the House floor, but members are also able to submit written statements that "revise and extend" their remarks. It's here where lawmakers submitted Genentech's preferred statements for the record. As Karen Tumulty noted, it lets the "lobbyists' paymasters" know that "they are getting good return on their investment."

What's noteworthy here is that it's "unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists."

Note to congressional offices: if you're going to copy and paste someone else's homework, make more of an effort to pretend otherwise.

Asked about the statements, a lobbyist close to Genentech told the NYT's Robert Pear, "This happens all the time."

That's hardly a reassuring statement about the norms of the institution.

Steve Benen 10:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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what's the big fuckin' deal?

from the corporations to the political hacks to the journalistic hacks to your ear...

corporate america at its best!

whatta country!

Posted by: neill on November 15, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Cartoon characters I tell you! These 21st century Republicans are no more than cartoon characters.

The character that comes to mind on this issue is Timothy Turtle - you know, the character who wanted to be something he could never become, and when he got in over his head all he needed to do was say, "help me Mr. Wizard1"

Always looking for their wizard, these modern Republicans! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on November 15, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Read the article, Kevo - they prepared remarks for Democrats, too, and were every bit as successful getting the D whores to read their propaganda into the congressional record as they were with the ones on the other side.

Posted by: Realist on November 15, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I went to an Alan Grayson fundraiser yesterday (he's my Congressman) and as a new Congressman he regaled us with stories of the special interests and lobbyists lining up outside his office . Being a new Congressmen , he said he really didn't know what to to with them. He is not taking any corporate or lobbyist fund for his campaign and has said it is time for the House and Congress to start looking at public financing to allow the elected officials to do what they are supposed to do , represent the people instead of big bidness. He is truly a breath of fresh air and says he is going to prove to other democrats that if you fight and have a spine , the people will support you . When you meet him in person as opposed to the sound bites you see on TEEVEE he comes across as a concerned individual who is fighting for his constituents and the good of the country. I for one did not hesitate to donate, he is a new breed of democrat we need more of.

Posted by: johnr on November 15, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

he's a decent human being...in politics!
that's great news, johnr...thanks...

Posted by: neill on November 15, 2009 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Behold, the real constituents of Congress. Not only does the United States Congress favor big business over Americans (something we already knew), it favors foreign big business over Americans.

Posted by: oh my on November 15, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Duh. Everyone on the hill knows that Genentech supplies escorts for congressional aides at the annual "biotech bash".

Posted by: converse on November 15, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly we are blessed with the finest congress that money can buy.

Posted by: N.Wells on November 15, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure ACORN did the same thing.

Posted by: Qbert on November 15, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

In nearly identical words, three Republicans -- Representatives K. Michael Conaway of Texas, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas and Lee Terry of Nebraska -- said they had criticized many provisions of the bill, and "rightfully so." But, each said, "I do believe the sections relating to the creation of a market for biosimilar products is one area of the bill that strikes the appropriate balance in providing lower cost options."

These idiots can't even be bothered to check for subject-verb agreement in the words they're parroting. "Here, say this. No, you don't have to read it first."

Posted by: RSA on November 15, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Just business as usual...government by the corporation, for the corporation, and of the corporation.

And Congress wonders why it's despised by most of the country???

And the scary part is that things are only going to get worse once the Supreme Court repeals Buckley vs. Valeo...

Posted by: mfw13 on November 15, 2009 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, ho hum.

At least these congresscritters didn't bow in front of the lobbyists. Sure, they went down on them, but didn't bow.

Otherwise, this story would be HUGE.

Posted by: 2Manchu on November 15, 2009 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Executives ruin their product, ruin their service, ruin the company/customer relationsips, ruin company/employee relationships and they ruin the people's government.

One would think for all the money executives make that quality would at least be required. I'd have to say torching your revenue resources every chance you get is as far away from quality as one can get.

Posted by: Silver Owl on November 16, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK
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