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WARREN, LOBBYING AND THE ONION

June 16, 2017

WARRREN, LOBBYING AND THE ONION

Lobbying as practiced today and with its funding unleashed by the Supreme Court in its democracy destroying holding of Citizens United has left political decisions in the hands of those who can afford the luxury, namely, the rich and corporate class, big banks and individuals such as the Mercers and the Koch Brothers. Individual citizens such as you and I are unnecessary to the process and are largely ignored because we, in plain words, have too little money to influence political outcomes.3

This situation is a cancer on our democracy (or what is left of it) which cries out for reform and should not be a subject of humor, but Elizabeth Warren in her new and serious book, This Fight is our Fight, quotes a piece from the satirical publication, The Onion, to point up how we are not represented these days, as follows: “A few years ago The Onion published a story with the fictional headline – American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist to Push Interests in Washington. Beneath that tease was an article about a lobbyist from the high-powered firm Patton Boggs who was hired by the people to represent their interests because they ‘lack a voice in the legislative process.’” Truth frequently masquerades via satire, and this is such an instance. Citizens United has drowned out our voices as citizens under an avalanche of money and lobbying provided by special interests.

We the people are increasingly shut out of the process by Big Money, and how big? More is paid in lobbying per year ($2.7 billion) than we taxpayers pay to keep the House and Senate running! Lobbying, as Warren notes, has so distorted the legislative process in Washington that our congressional representatives now have real trouble connecting with the people who sent them to D.C., and there are good reasons for that.

Consider, as she has, complex regulations. She notes that “Who, other than government, has the resources and the skills to dig into a thousand-page document, read every single line, and tweak a sentence so that it no longer bans some profitable industry practice? Who will find the paragraph that, if changed just slightly, can create a giant loophole? Who? A partner at a big law firm paid by a big corporation to lobby, that’s who. Lobbying is effective because a major industry can hire an army of lobbyists, and those lobbyists can dedicate a vast supply of resources to scouring every law, regulation, and opinion letter issued by the government. All this work provides ammunition to get the government to change the rules in the industry’s favor.” The system is rigged and those who insist that we are living in a democracy (which includes the idea, among others, that the Congress represents the people) are peddling propaganda lite.

So who are some of the connecting links between our congressional people and the special interests? By far the biggest is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose big beautiful building in Washington stands across the park from the White House. The Chamber is well-financed by dues from its members and is so powerful that it amounts to an alternative government. The CEO of the Chamber in his elevated office can look down on the smaller office of the President of the United States. The Chamber’s Hall of Flags lends credence to the idea that the Chamber could pass as a sovereign nation, and is reinforced by the visual of its CEO who can look down on the Oval Office, a CEO who explains that “we have to raise five million dollars a week to run this place.”

The Chamber’s lobbyists’ job (per Warren) is to explain to the federal government what laws should or should not be passed. You and I are not involved. Their advice when followed either pro or con is, of course, backed up with bags of “campaign contributions,” formerly known as bribes before the propaganda of the rich and corporate class persuaded the rest of us that such shenanigans were legitimate and a political court’s holding in Citizens United which opened the floodgates of unlimited “bribes” by corporations and others to candidates of their choosing (see Ryan, McConnell and other sellouts of democracy). Again, you and I are not involved, and one wonders whatever happened to Lincoln’s pronouncement of “that government of the people, by the people and for the people” and the long  and oft-repeated mantra that “sovereignty rests with the people.”

Let’s tell it like it truly is: Our government these days is not that of, by or for the people; it is for the rich and corporate class and their lobbyists who write the bills for their congressional toadies to present as though such bills arose from a groundswell of public opinion, all as now formally approved by the holding in Citizens United.  Does anyone reading this believe that an ordinary American knows anything about such bills written by lobbyists and their hired help in the shadow of the Capitol and Oval Office? Of course not, nor does any average American not reading this know any of such bills’ contents.

It gets worse. It is not only average Americans who are shut out of the process but even members of Congress who vote on bills they have never read because their party whip demands a yes or no vote based upon party loyalty and having nothing to do with whether the bill is good or bad for America and its people, and why not? We the people have no money and reelection of such political sycophants is assured every two or six years via a torrent of money and propaganda from such as the Chamber, a Chamber that provides a cover for its members who can hide in anonymity behind their lobbyists for fear of boycott, shareholder suits etc.

Even worse still and apparently for fear of leaks that would lead to critical review by the press and Democrats, the Republican leadership in the Senate (read McConnell)  will currently not even divulge the contents of proposed legislation to his own party members while demanding that they vote for such a bill! That’s democracy? That’s a vote for “the will of the people?” Neither the people nor the politicians they elect know what’s in the bill!

So we know what it isn’t, but what is it? It’s legislative dictatorship pure and simple, the same sort of democracy-destroying tactics that McConnell employed in refusing to allow a vote for almost a year on a Supreme Court justice. It appears that the Bannon-inspired wannabe dictator Trump has been joined in his quest for sole power by the legislative branch as everyone is getting in on the act.

What to do? First, we must see to it that Ryan and McConnell and their lookalikes enjoy their retirement while at their new jobs as lobbyists beyond the revolving door, but most importantly (if we are to rescue our democracy) we must have public financing of political campaigns, undo Citizens United, publicize the intent and purpose of pending legislation for all to see and evaluate irrespective of legislative rules etc., after which we can begin to enjoy the blessings of democracy, though remaining vigilant when further attacks are made on this our most precious possession, our democracy, without which America is nothing more than an ATM machine.

When to start re-nourishment of our democratic institutions? Yesterday.     GERALD      E

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