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Reformed pizza cook makes good
November 18, 2011 5:42 AM   Subscribe

"As I built what became the nation’s largest individual lobbying practice -- with 40 employees at its peak -- I remained the only lobbyist in the firm who had not previously worked on Capitol Hill. Former Congress members and staff are everywhere on K Street, the lair of the lobbying world. Why? Because they have access."

Interesting op-ed piece in Bloomberg today. You may remember the author as being in the news a few years back. Seems he's been trying to re-make his image.
posted by jadayne (38 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Occupy K Street.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:45 AM on November 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


"During my years as a lobbyist, I saw scores of congressional staff members become the willing vassals of K Street firms before soon decamping for K Street employment themselves. It was a dirty little secret. And it is a source of major corruption in Congress."

Depressing.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:52 AM on November 18, 2011


Occupy K Street.

Actually, Occupy DC is in McPherson Square, which is bounded on one side by K Street, so they're already sort of doing this.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:53 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Indeed, service in congress these days is just an interview/internship for a much more lucrative career.

There's been some talk of barring former congresspeople from working as lobbyists, but I'm not sure how that would work, or how it would be enforced.
posted by Eideteker at 5:55 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


When we visited DC, we were on the other end of K street, at Washington Circle. I remember walking along K street and thinking "so THIS is the heart of evil?" Office buildings and restaurants. But what else would it be?
posted by DU at 5:55 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


(You get the same feeling in Greenwich, CT.)
posted by smackfu at 5:57 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damnit smacfu!
posted by Mblue at 6:02 AM on November 18, 2011


"There is only one cure for this disease: a lifetime ban on members and staff lobbying Congress or associating in any way with for-profit lobbying efforts. "

Now this is real change. And it will never, ever, never, nerver, norver, NEEver, never ever ever ever happen.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:03 AM on November 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Barring former congresspeople from being lobbyists would solve very close to nothing. The only reason they use them now is that they can hit the ground running. The ones behind the lobbyists can always throw money at that problem some other way. We need to ban corporate money period, which will include most lobbying.
posted by DU at 6:08 AM on November 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Now this is real change. And it will never, ever, never, nerver, norver, NEEver, never ever ever ever happen.

We'll see about that! [put on sunglasses]
posted by fuq at 6:12 AM on November 18, 2011


He was also on 60 Minutes recently; does he have a book coming out or something? Anyway, it is good that this stuff is getting out. In a related story, this story on congress using insider information to pick stocks and suddenly a bill banning the practice that perennialy died in committee picked up 61 co-sponsors. It appears sunlight is ndeed a good disinfectant.
posted by TedW at 6:16 AM on November 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Previously
posted by IndigoJones at 6:26 AM on November 18, 2011


We need to ban corporate money period, which will include most lobbying.

There's nothing wrong with lobbying. Lobbying is how government works. The problem is bribery.
posted by empath at 6:28 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem is politicians that excuse themselves from law.
Pick any.
posted by Mblue at 6:37 AM on November 18, 2011


There's nothing wrong with lobbying. Lobbying is how government works. The problem is bribery.

One of the priests at the Church I go to most of the time is also a lobbyist, for WIC. I'd like him to keep being able to do what he does. The problem is money and disproportionate influence of people who have it, not people petitioning the government for redress of grievance, which is really all lobbying should be.

Now, if we were going to outlaw his practice of having the entire congregation recite the collect in unison, then I'd be on board.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:41 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Freedom is private property, take away that, and Fascist government is right behind. Even the Roman Church was about property, religion was law, not God.
posted by Mblue at 6:51 AM on November 18, 2011


I did not suggest banning lobbying.
posted by DU at 6:54 AM on November 18, 2011


Occupy K Street.

That's what I was doing yesterday, actually.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 7:01 AM on November 18, 2011


I did not suggest banning lobbying.

You suggested banning corporate lobbying. I don't really think there's anything wrong with it necessarily. Businesses should be able to talk to politicians about what they need. Do you really want to ban, for example, Apple asking a Congressperson loosen visa restrictions on foreign engineers? The problem isn't who is doing the asking. The problem isn't what they are asking for. The problem is how the asking is being done.
posted by empath at 7:15 AM on November 18, 2011


This is Abramoff we're talking about. What's the catch?
posted by Wemmick at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2011


No, the problem is who is doing the asking.

Businesses are not people. Congress does not serve them.

I have no problem with people lobbying Congress. If they want to lobby Congress on behalf of some business they like, go ahead. Have a name attached to it and a maximum dollar amount you can spend.
posted by DU at 7:20 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is, and has been, so fucking obvious for so long it's ridiculous.

Congresscritters spend MILLIONS to get a job that pays $180k/year. Payback has to be part of the equation.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:21 AM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have no problem with people lobbying Congress. If they want to lobby Congress on behalf of some business they like, go ahead.

Are you going to ban people who work for a company from talking to congress on behalf of the company they work for? Are you going to ban companies from starting associations to speak on behalf of the industry? Are you going to ban unions from lobbying congress? What about the ACLU? or MADD? Or the NAACP? Or AARP?
posted by empath at 7:27 AM on November 18, 2011


Are you going to ban people who work for a company from talking to congress on behalf of the company they work for? Are you going to ban companies from starting associations to speak on behalf of the industry? Are you going to ban unions from lobbying congress? What about the ACLU? or MADD? Or the NAACP? Or AARP?

Then how about a public forum? Something like "Lobbying Thursdays"? Lobbyists get ten minutes in front of the representatives (and the public) to make their case? It's not like Congress is working so hard they can't spare a day a week?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:36 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those are called 'congressional hearings', and they are on C Span every day.
posted by empath at 7:39 AM on November 18, 2011


No, "congressional hearings" are generally public theater, with the agenda set by congress.

I'm suggesting taking their power to control the agenda away.

Pipe dream, I know.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:41 AM on November 18, 2011


Are you going to ban people who work for a company from talking to congress on behalf of the company they work for? Are you going to ban companies from starting associations to speak on behalf of the industry? Are you going to ban unions from lobbying congress? What about the ACLU? or MADD? Or the NAACP? Or AARP?

No to all of them. If there are actual human beings who feel strongly enough about these organizations, they can lobby/contribute/etc. But they have a cap. Once you've personally contributed $X on behalf of HugeCorp A, you can't then contribute $Y on behalf of HugeCorp B.

Will companies still have lobbyists? Yes. But they'll have to purchase a huge number of them and there will only be so many (because due to the cap you probably can't lobby on behalf of many, or even more than one). Meanwhile the masses of people who care about real issues are free to contribute to them and the caps won't get in the way.
posted by DU at 7:42 AM on November 18, 2011


tldr; IF I CAN'T HAVE YOU NO ONE WILL
posted by resurrexit at 7:45 AM on November 18, 2011


This is Abramoff we're talking about. What's the catch?

That he's the only one that went to jail, while the same things he got bust for and far, far worse go on every. single. day.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:24 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then how about a public forum? Something like "Lobbying Thursdays"? Lobbyists get ten minutes in front of the representatives (and the public) to make their case? It's not like Congress is working so hard they can't spare a day a week?

Members of Congress (and their staff) actually spend a huge chunk of their day in meetings with interest groups already - often these meetings include both a professional lobbyist and a group of constituents. I see why making it public would be nice, but I think what you're suggesting would actually reduce the amount of time MoCs spend listening to people.
posted by naoko at 10:14 AM on November 18, 2011


Eideteker: There's been some talk of barring former congresspeople from working as lobbyists, but I'm not sure how that would work, or how it would be enforced.

Poorly to not-at-all.

Unless the party in charge of Congress needed a scapegoat to deseat a President, and could make it sound extra-juicy for the soundbites.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:42 PM on November 18, 2011


There's been some talk of barring former congresspeople from working as lobbyists, but I'm not sure how that would work, or how it would be enforced.


Welll, I man look at Newt -- Fanny Mae's "Historian".
posted by empath at 1:07 PM on November 18, 2011


There's nothing wrong with lobbying. Lobbying is how government works. The problem is bribery.

There is nothing everything wrong with lobbying. Lobbying is how government works. The problem is lobbying is bribery.

FTFY
posted by BlueHorse at 1:32 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is that lobbyists have gotten out of the lobby. Put them back where they belong. So they can only talk to the representative during the time it takes them to walk across the lobby. You want access. There is your 15 seconds. Talk fast.
posted by srboisvert at 1:54 PM on November 18, 2011


Jack Abramoff? But I hardly know Abram!
posted by jonp72 at 5:47 PM on November 18, 2011


I worked on the Hill for a little over three years in the mid 90s. I worked many late nights on behalf of the public. It was absolutely invaluable experience, and I have spent a good portion of my career since that time lobbying Congress, mostly on behalf of fish and wildlife conservation. Am I a crook and "part of the problem?"

Yes, my efforts to influence policy are based on by my knowledge of the legislative process, my understanding of Members of Congress and staff, and, in a few cases, connections with former colleagues and a few personal friends. Just as often, the many principled people I've known and worked with disagreed with me because, in their view, it was in the interest of their constituents and the public to do so. I might disagree with them, but I don't impugn their commitment to public service.

The vast majority of people that I know who work on and off the Hill are good people dedicated to advancing the public interest. Casting all of us as corrupt, evil people because Jack Abramoff - JACK ABRAMOFF! - says so is shameful and offensive to those of us who have dedicated our careers and lives to making the democratic process work.

The problem is not lobbying, nor is it lobbying by former Members and staff. The problem is people like Mr. Abramoff who use money and dishonesty to manipulate and distort the democratic process. Don't fall for his efforts to make excuses for his own behavior by blaming "the system."
posted by wick47 at 7:12 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


DU: "When we visited DC, we were on the other end of K street, at Washington Circle. I remember walking along K street and thinking "so THIS is the heart of evil?" Office buildings and restaurants. But what else would it be?"

Finally got to Washington in the middle of the night
I couldn't wait
I headed straight for the Capitol Mall
My heart began to pound
Yahoo! It really exists
The American International Pictures logo

I looked up at that Capitol Building
Couldn't help but wonder why
I felt like saying "Hello, old friend"

Walked up the hill to touch it
Then I unzipped my pants
And pissed on it when nobody was looking

Like a great eternal Klansman
With his two flashing red eyes
Turn around he's always watching
The Washington monument pricks the sky
With flags like pubic hair ringed 'round the bottom

The symbols of our heritage
Lit up proudly in the night
Somehow fits to see the homeless people
Passed out on the lawn

So this is where it happens
The power games and bribes
All lobbying for a piece of ass
Of the stars and stripes of corruption
posted by symbioid at 7:20 PM on November 18, 2011


At many healthcare institutions, including my own, physicians are bared from taking as much as a pen from a pharmaceutical rep. Why can't we enact the same kinds of ethical standards on our representatives in Washington?
posted by robstercraw at 6:02 AM on November 20, 2011


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