Political Special Interest Organizations And Lobbyists

Are the special interest organization controlling Congress or the voters. What they don't tell you is that our legislators are being influenced by campaign contributions and biased polls.

"BECAUSE self regulation to raise the ethical standards of my profession is preferable to the alternatives of government imposed standards, or of having no standard." A portion of the pledge taken by many registered lobbyists. The term "lobbyist" brings to mind a cartoon-character individual (possibly Foghorn Leghorn) in a sharkskin suit, a gravy-stained power tie and a bulbous cigar, offering a cornucopia of fine wines, porterhouse steaks, real friendly women and tickets to the Superbowl to our legislators in exchange for their votes. And lobbyists in that mold do still exist, but they are vastly outnumbered by lawyers, economists, direct-mail and telephone salespeople and pollsters. They fill the whole length of K Street in the capital. And the over 80,000 individuals in that profession are not "lobbyists" (the term was derived from journalists who skulked about the lobbies of the House of Commons). Singly, they are "consultants"; en mass, they become "Political Action Committees".

There's nothing illegal about lobbying. The "right to petition the government for the redress of grievances" was mentioned in the Magna Carta; the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act was passed in 1946, requiring all lobbyists to register in Congress and report the amount and sources of their lobbying income. And their techniques are more subtle than handing out canvas sacks of $20's on the White House lawn or the fixed bayonet approach used on the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. They use information gathered by extensive polling of constituents to demonstrate the will of the people. To be sure, this polling is done with the will of their clients in mind. When working for the National Rifle Association, they're unlikely to poll members of the Policemen's Benevolent Society or the widows of murdered cops. And they do use cash, strictly aboveboard, of course, in the form of enormous campaign contributions. PAC's are not political; they are financial institutes.

Who are their clients? Everyone from the tiny Bow Tie Manufacturers, who spend less than $10,000 a year, to the massive National Association of Home Builders, with 125,000 members and a annual budget of $10,000,000 plus. And all that money is spent most effectively. For example, The Independent Insurance Agents of America contributed to the members of the subcommittee dealing with competitiveness in their market-hence the 60 year old McCarren-Ferguson Act, exempting them from federal anti-trust laws. The Healthcare Leadership Council, whose members include more than 1700 hospitals, management companies and residential treatment centers, represented by the powerful lobbyist Michael David Bramberg ("If you think health care is expensive now, wait until it's free.") contributed more than $162,000, mostly to incumbents, to thwart universal health care.

They were at odds in this with the venerable AARP. The Association of Retired Persons has intense concern over Medicare benefits to its members. This causes it to put its considerable clout athwart those whose interests lie with Medicaid and other welfare benefits. They have more money than welfare moms, and their members get to the polls more regularly than say, the homeless, so guess who wins.

Right-minded citizens believe in the power of the common man to control this country, its policies and its laws, by voting on election day. But we can't just send people to Washington and expect them to remain pure; the air's too dirty and way too rich. We can control special interest groups; if their goals are narrow and totally divergent from ours, we can force them to call off their dogs. United, the American people are the biggest and the richest of the special interest groups. Be aware, complain like crazy, and vote, and vote, and vote.

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