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Sigh No More, Lobbyists

Gosh. It's hard being a lobbyist these days. No more expensing steak dinners for Senators, dropping boxes of Godiva off for staffers, or putting half the House Finance Committee on a Gulfstream bound for a Aruba and a dubious "fact-finding mission." Some candidates are even wary of taking their money. How can they work under these conditions?! Perhaps they can dry their tears of privation on the sharp green edges of the 2.9 billion dollars they made this year.

Extracurricular Lobbying

Even as Connecticut's legislative candidates have the chance to run with Clean Elections public financing for the first time this year, the state legislature is still chewing over ethics and corruption questions. Now they are debating whether to prohibit registered lobbyists from serving on state boards and commissions.

Have a Cow

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that livestock farming generates two-thirds of the ammonia emissions in the nation, but they're considering dropping a rule requiring these farms to report their toxic gas emissions thanks to pressure from lobbyists for factory farms, and lawmakers who know they'll be asking those same farms for campaign contributions this year.

Lobbyists Leave a Mark

Yesterday's Times story on John McCain's relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman has touched off criticism on the number of lobbyists McCain counts on his campaign staff, and potential favors he may have done for Iseman's clients. As if that wasn't enough bad news for the campaign, it looks like the FEC isn't quite ready to let McCain out of the presidential public financing system for the primary.

Take The Opportunity

Oh, how the tables turn. Yesterday Sen. John McCain was laying into Sen. Barack Obama for wobbling on the presidential public financing system and today he's fending off accusations of giving improper access and influence to a lobbyist whose clients had business before a Senate committee that McCain chaired.

House Parties

Into every law a little loophole must fall but in the case of the most recent set of laws limiting lobbyist/lawmaker contact the loophole is a three-storied, red-bricked, bay-windowed monster of a problem with a dollar sign stamped on top. This USA Today article shows why business will go on as usual so long as lobbyists can raise money for lawmakers and pay handsomely for that special access to Congress.

Lay Off the Lobbyists

In this Boston Globe article Susan Milligan and a handful of campaign finance watchdogs dissect the "lobbyists suck" line that has become shorthand for a general sense of unease over whose interests are getting attention in Washington. Lobbyists per se aren't the problem. Money, and the varied routes that carry it from the pockets of a few to campaigns around the country, is the problem.

They Work Hard With the Money

Congress is busy adjusting to the new rules on lobbyist contact, taking meals from lobbyists, lobbyist-funded travel etc. but in Oklahoma lobbyists are still free to foot the bill for up to $300 in lawmaker expenses. And as this article in Tulsa World reveals, they're picking up the tab for everything from polo shirts to football games. I'm sure it's because they're really generous guys just, you know, paying it forward.

The Season and the Reason

Go read this article and tell me there's a not a relationship between lobbyists donating to members of Congress and getting special access to that Member to talk about whatever policy they're pushing. It's fundraising season and K Street denizens are dusting off their pet projects, opening their wallets, and preparing to digest a lot of rubber chicken.

The Politico
lays the scene:

Which Washington For You?

Trent Lott is not alone in cashing in his Senate office chips for a seat at the lobbyist's high rollers table. As Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes in this column on the other Washington, many a lawmaker has heard the siren song of power and profit margins calling them away from public duty and accountability.

The recent lobbying overhaul bill which aims to break up the tight-clutch slow dance between Congress and corporate lobbyists has decades worth of growing lobbyist influence to overcome: