Lobbyists play a vital role in our democracy. They are an important part of keeping members of Congress knowledgeable about a variety of things—from derivatives trading to county tax issues to government reform. It is when lobbyists and their wealthy clients hand over big checks to get undue influence that we start getting involved.
And that second sentence is why I paid special attention to a letter sent to President Obama today by the head of the American League of Lobbyists—another bullet point in the ridiculous list of attacks on the draft executive order currently being considered by the Obama administration that would require government contractors to disclose their political donations.
League President Howard Marlowe, a registered lobbyist, states in the letter to the Obama White House, “the Draft Order would inhibit one of the most vital tools in the advocate's arsenal by creating fear of retribution for political donations."
Hey kettle, the pot’s calling.
Mr. Marlow has donated nearly $80,000 to federal political action committees (PACs) and candidates over the past 20 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Does Mr. Marlowe believe the money he gives influences members’ policy decisions? Do the clients of the lobbyists his association represents use their campaign cash to get someone on their side?
He probably wouldn’t admit to that—because he’d be giving up the game.
He’d be admitting that Senators and House members who oppose the draft executive order are influenced by the money they receive from the same government contractors who also oppose it. He’d admit that Wall Street campaign cash helped put us into an economic tailspin, that Big Oil pays Congress handsomely to keep its tax breaks.
But I don’t see him sending a letter to Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Reid complaining about our Congressional pay-to-play system, even though he has no doubt heard from association members that tell him, “I’d rather a member of Congress call me asking for policy advice instead of a campaign check.”
And that’s why the debate over this executive order is such chicanery. It’s about secrecy, plain and simple. That’s fine to believe, just admit it.