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:

 

[A] bout half of those who have gone to Washington to do good choose to stay in the capital, and do well. They don't go home to Pascagoula, Miss., or Spokane. The number of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., doubled to 34,700 during the first half of this decade.Lobbyists are ubiquitous in our nation's capital.


A young Puget Sound-area native, Collin Jergens, worked a couple of years back for Public Citizen, the reform group trying to put teeth into Congress' regulation of lobbyists.Congress passed a bill with baby teeth, despite the scandal over Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Jergens took time off to attend the Washington State Society dinner. He wrote a hilarious blog about tickets priced at just under the limit that lobbyists could spend and winning a door prize courtesy of Denny Miller Associates.

 

If the two year waiting period between leaving Congress and going to work as a lobbyist does anything to combat the conveyor belt of elected officials from the corridors of power to the conference rooms of K Street, it's certainly a step forward for an American public largely ignored by government:

Broadly speaking, is the vast lobbying culture of Washington, D.C., a good deal or bad deal?

Congress has done almost nothing to help America's struggling middle class.

Lobbyists have blocked or watered down laws proposed to protect public health. Food safety inspection is minimal.

Almost no action has been taken to stop or limit the outsourcing of American jobs.

The number of Americans lacking health insurance is up from 39 million to 47 million.

The public interest would seem more damned than served.