Wednesday, January 18, 2006

 

Lobbying Reform

Captain Ed looks at the Republican lobbying reform proposal. He notes that lobbying and contributing money to political campaigns really can't be separated and comments:
Money will flow through any system put in place, find the loopholes, and exploit them as surely as water finds the crevices in rocks and splits them over time. Politicians and lobbyists have no stake in sealing the lawmaking process off from the enormous stacks of cash that activists generate to promote their causes, no matter how just or unjust they may be. And while the quality of leadership, especially in ethical transparency, needs an upgrade for both political parties, the only real solution is to take the money and the power out of the federal government. The true problem lies with the amount of power that the federal government wields and the vast sums of money it skims off of the American consumer and economic system to fund itself. As long as that continues, there will always be lobbyists looking to redirect it to their clients, politicians willing to take a piece of the action to deliver it, and the ethicists will always be one scandal behind in preventing it.
Andrew Ferguson comments:
Lobbying thrives on government -- specifically the government's willingness to meddle in every sector of national life, multiplying the number of aggrieved citizens who either want to protect themselves or to benefit from the meddling.

It's not a coincidence that while the lobbying community roughly doubled in size, the federal government's budget grew by nearly two-thirds. Big government raises big stakes.

It's possible that smaller government would have the opposite effect. Nobody will know until it's tried. The 1995 lobbying reform was passed by a Republican majority loudly and ostentatiously committed to shrinking government's scope and power.

Do you suppose the failure of lobbying reform is a consequence -- unintended, naturally -- of the failure to make good on that much more far-reaching commitment?
(Via The Corner)

They are right. Making government smaller would cut down on opportunities for insider mischief. So would making government more transparent. Too bad Republicans can't bring themselves to implement the agenda they have campaigned on for the last 2 decades.

As sunlight really is the best disinfectant, one fanciful notion on the matter that I like to entertain is a requirement that all lobbyists be wired for sound, 24/7. Every conversation with their clients and those they seek to influence would be recorded, transcribed and published on the internet. If only this were possible.

UPDATE: Michael G. Franc lists some good reform ideas:
  • End the practice, known as earmarking, of sending taxpayer dollars to specific entities for the narrowest of purposes;

  • Reform the budget process so that the deck is no longer stacked against lawmakers who want to reduce the level of spending;

  • Sunset all federal programs so that dysfunctional programs do not live on indefinitely;

  • Revive proposals from the heady days of the Gingrich-Armey Revolution that would prevent recipients of federal largesse from lobbying Congress;

  • Breathe life into a moribund House rule that, if it were ever enforced, would require witnesses before congressional committees to reveal any and all federal funds flowing to their organizations.

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