In political circles, there is a difference between ‘convincing’ someone and ‘influencing’ them; this is not just semantics, these are two entirely divergent concepts. To convince someone to agree with you, you present your argument logically and provide evidence that supports your position; if your argument is good and your evidence convincing, you win! When you influence someone, as the word implies, you exert some form of ‘power’ over their behavior or thought process; the argument need not be great and the evidence can be circumstantial when you have the ‘power.’

There is little doubt that Washington lobbyists are paid by their employers to influence legislation by any means possible and those “means” always involve some form of financial arrangement. This is precisely why the name Jack Abramoff has become a name used as often as the names of several household products, why Tom DeLay’s name is hardly ever mentioned anymore in polite company, why the name Curt Weldon is growing in popular usage and why the name Harry Reid will soon catch up to all the others.

In June of 2005, the Washington Post published a story called: “The Road to Riches Is Called K Street” and in that article they present some fascinating facts, for example: In the year 2000, total federal spending equaled $1.79 trillion and there were 16,342 registered lobbyists employed by various organizations to help direct a piece of that money to their employers. By 2004 total Federal spending had risen by $0.5 trillion to $2.29 trillion, an increase of approximately 28%, but the number of lobbyists rose to 34,785, an increase of over 100%. Why did that happen? The article proposes three reasons and they are too obvious to be considered anything but logically correct:

1) The government is growing (instead of shrinking as it should have under a Conservative administration). The parenthetical comment is mine, not the Washington Post’s. W.R.

2) The Republicans are in control of the White House and both legislative bodies, this is traditionally considered to be a pro-business atmosphere (most lobbying is done to promote business agendas rather than rather social or civic agendas).

3) There is a wide-spread and growing recognition by business owners, business organizations and other special interest groups that lobbyists are needed to promote their agendas.

Lobbyists operate under rules that limit the amount that they can spend to influence a legislator, those rules have been ‘tightened’ since the 2005 article referenced above but there is so much partisan infighting going on it’s hard to say if anything will really change. Most commonly, lobbyists pay for things like free lunches, dinners, parties, fundraisers, charitable events and tickets to sporting events — a good chunk used to be spent on travel (paid vacations for the legislators) but that has now been curtailed . . . or has it. One lobbyist speaking of efforts to stop the flow of this quasi-money between the lobbyists and the legislators indicated that new, tighter rules will not be a problem for lobbyists — the payments for these events and activities can simply come from the lobbyists employers — they are not lobbyists so they are unaffected by the rules.

Lobbyists are simply doing what they are allowed to do by the system or what the legislators allow them to do. It’s obvious that lobbyists are not the problem . . . the legislators are the problem! Too many of our legislators are either ‘for sale’ to the highest bidder or are at least putting themselves in a position where they may eventually get an ‘offer they can’t refuse.’ The situation has to stop . . . but my main point is, it should have never started!

Our political system is based on trust: trust that the person elected will fairly represent his or her constituents (all of them, not just the ones who can afford to buy lunch) and trust in the character, honesty and integrity of the person elected to serve as a Senator or Representative. This system of influence peddling that has been allowed to come into being and allowed to grow has ‘consumed’ many legislators already and, if left unchecked, it will consume our entire system of government.

Our awareness of the problem is the first big step to solving it. Our notification to our Senators and Representatives that we are aware of the problem and will not tolerate their ‘shady’ behavior is a solid second step. The next step comes on election day and on every following election day; know who you are voting for, an uneducated voter is a dangerous voter.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that this is not intended as a partisan rant! There are ‘weasels’ on both sides of the isle who are eagerly waiting for their next ‘meal.’ I propose we make them pay for that ‘meal,’ and all subsequent ‘meals,’ with money from their own paychecks.

Links:

The Washington Post: “Weldon’s Ties to Serbian Businessman Part of Probe”

From the blogosphere: “Lobster with Kerry: $25,000. Golf with Chambliss: $15,000. Access to Congress: Priceless”

Brent Bozell’s column at Townhall.com: “Harry Reid can’t bleed”

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