Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 18, 2011

LOBBYISTS GO BACK TO WRITING LAWS.... When House Republicans were in the minority, they had a steadfast rule in advance of policy debates: do what the lobbyists say.

When Congress worked on a jobs bill, the GOP huddled with corporate lobbyists. When work on Wall Street reform got underway, Republicans huddled with industry lobbyists. When Congress worked on health care reform, they huddled with insurance lobbyists. When an energy/climate bill started advancing, Republicans huddled with energy lobbyists. When choosing candidates for key statewide offices, Republicans even recruited former corporate lobbyists.

But that was the last Congress. Now, Republicans are running the show in the House again, and the GOP has streamlined the process -- lobbyists are no longer lobbying, they're working directly for Republicans and writing legislation.

A surge of lobbyists has left K Street this year to fill jobs as high-ranking staffers on Capitol Hill, focusing new attention on the dearth of rules governing what paid advocates can do after moving into the legislative world.

Ethics rules sharply limit the activities of former lobbyists who join the executive branch and former lawmakers who move to lobbying firms. But experts say there are no limits on lawmakers hiring K street employees and letting them write legislation in sync with the policies they advocated for hire.

New tallies indicate that nearly half of the roughly 150 former lobbyists working in top policy jobs for members of Congress or House committees have been hired in the past few months. And many are working on legislative issues of interest to their former employers.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, which led other House panels by hiring six lobbyists this year, is drafting legislation sought by oil and energy firms. At least four staffers on the committee payroll worked for those industries last year.

It's quite a revolving door. Some of these aides started in GOP offices in the Hill, moved to K Street to start representing corporate interests, and are now back on the Hill writing the legislation that will benefit those same corporate interests.

In the bigger picture, none of this is especially surprising. On the contrary, it was entirely predictable.

What I find interesting, though, is the realization that plenty of far-right voters were sold a bill of goods. In 2010, conservatives flocked to GOP candidates who ran as "insurgents" and "outsiders," with no use for the entrenched establishment and their corrupt power structure.

Now those same candidates are hiring corporate lobbyists and turning over bill-writing responsibilities to them. Is this what the anti-establishment Tea Party crowd had in mind?

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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"Is this what the anti-establishment Tea Party crowd had in mind?"

What? Mind? Are you kidding?

Posted by: Vokoban on March 18, 2011 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

There's a two word expression for the Tea Party crowd: useful idiots.


Posted by: Zorro on March 18, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Well, seeing some of the new House members, I'd be surprised if lobbyists weren't writing legislation for them.

I don't think laws written in crayon are acceptable to most of the American people - Teabggers excluded, of course.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 18, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Kudos Vokoban you pulled the trigger on that one quick.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 18, 2011 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

The first refuge of a scoundrel , the last thought of a sociopath , the working environment for the new brand of mean and clean Republican worthy . The very idea of democracy or republic is so out loud laughable to these powerful new officials . They really have to look twice to catch the meaning , before their properly red faced reply can be filtered through the order of departments . Those would be , of course , greasing the crony's in order of servility .

Posted by: FRP on March 18, 2011 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Freshman politicians have discovered what every Hollywood producer knows: behind every great actor there is a great screen writer and a great director.

Posted by: DAY on March 18, 2011 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's necessary, because they are incapable of writing (or even understanding) the laws themselves.

Posted by: atlliberal on March 18, 2011 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

'Twas ever thus. When have the poor rubes EVER really had anything done for them? They get the occasional activist judge, and halfhearted measures on abortion and gay rights that immediately or eventually are overturned by the courts, but nothing of substance. And meanwhile they, like the rest of Americans, get screwed by the corporations and the wealthy.

But it is characteristic of authoritarianism that those legitimately in authority can do no wrong, and the right wing of the Republican party -- which is all the Teabaggers are -- are, and always have been, authoritarians to their core.

Posted by: bleh on March 18, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I imagine that as long as it cuts spending, and doesn't take anything away from them, teabaggers are fine.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on March 18, 2011 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

The teabaggers already fulfilled their purpose, which is to set the meme in cement. The Real Americans want spending cut! Except for themselves! The Village noted the fact, validated it, and declared them true patriots. Everything after that fact is simply figuring out how much and how deep the poor shall suffer. Obama: not too much. Republicans: more.

Posted by: walt on March 18, 2011 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

there's some propaganda value in this, but the door always revolves and people associated with liberal or less ideological single interest orgs (e.g., professional organizations) have always wound up on Congressional staffs.

Posted by: Rich on March 18, 2011 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Anti-establishment tea baggers? Get real. They loved the establishment from 2001 through 2008, and are pining to get it back.

Posted by: T-Rex on March 18, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Is this what the anti-establishment Tea Party crowd had in mind?

Irrelevant. It's what the people who funded them <koff><Koch><koff> had in mind.

Posted by: josef on March 18, 2011 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Which accounts for the completely illogical hodgepodge of so-called 'legislation' coming out of the House right now.

Put it all together it adds up to what? Nothing for all the people, lots for a few.

Posted by: jjm on March 18, 2011 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Minds? they have minds?

Posted by: fourlegsgood on March 18, 2011 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I love the bashing of the right, but, with whom did Senator Max Baucus meet and schmooze with during the run-up to the ACA? You don't consider Big Pharma and Big Medical Insurance to be lobbyists?

Posted by: berttheclock on March 18, 2011 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to your 'American' form of fascism. Your 'representatives' in Congress no longer reflect the will of the electorate .. except the stupid which sadly in the majority of your citizens .. but the will of the Corporations who have made you 'representatives' nothing more than their employees. And, of course, your Corporate Media is 'actively complicit' in this corporate take over of your country.

Posted by: blue on March 18, 2011 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

That's a good critique and the GOP is worse, however: Obama's crew huddled or even snuggled with health insurance etc. execs too. Really, we need reform inside the Democrats too.

Posted by: neil b on March 18, 2011 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

This could be a great cost saving opportunity. The lobbyists want to write the bills, so instead of having their employees take pay cuts to work for the federal gov't paid with our tax money, the lobbyists can just sponsor the positions. Or perhaps treat it like donating time to the United Way, they can pay their employees to to "donate" their time to the federal gov't. Win-win....

Posted by: golack on March 18, 2011 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I recall when Seattle papers reported comments by, then, Senator Slate Gorton R-WA defending his inclusion of lobbyists writing bills for him. Gorton said he didn't have the expertise on such matters as strip mining and logging, so he had to use them. Those were the days of the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle living Slate donning his newly acquired Pendletons and chinos to stroll through timber and mining towns of Eastern Washington.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 18, 2011 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Berttheclock.

Steve's post is spot on, but haven't we also been sold a bill of goods from Obama and the Dems on AHA and financial reform, not to mention the expansion of Bushco incursion of civil liberties?

We have the healthcare industry and Wall Street controlling their respective reform movements. We have Obama pushing for expansion of nuclear power.

That's not change I can believe in.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 18, 2011 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

This brings up an issue that has never occurred to me before. Who pays Congressional staffers? Who sets the budget for each member's staff? Do all reps and all senators have the same funding for staff? If they are paid for by taxpayers, shouldn't they be in the civil service system, which means there is a proscribed proceedure for hiring? I'm sure some WM reader has this info...?

Posted by: emjayay on March 18, 2011 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK



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