The Lobbyists' Ability To Control The Message

from the we-say-what-they-want dept

It certainly won't come as much of a surprise to readers around here that lobbyists from Roche/Genentech were able to get 42 different members of Congress to include text they had written into the Congressional Record. For way too long, we've seen how much politicians seem to rely on lobbyists to write the legislation, create the talking points and (at times) even deferring questions to the lobbyists themselves. Is it any wonder that lobbyists have become the new celebrities?

But what is rather stunning about the NY Times story on how Genentech's talking points were mentioned (with multiple Congressional reps using the exact same language) is how unconcerned everyone is about it. The lobbyists wrote up talking points for both sides of the aisle. It wasn't about being in support or against the current healthcare bill, but just to get these Congressional Reps "on the record" in supporting key concepts, so that those same lobbyists can go back and point to such "bipartisan" support in the future, even if the Congressional reps themselves don't even know what they're talking about.

The NY Times talked to a bunch of Congressional offices about this, and they all seem to admit freely that the language came from Genentech lobbyists, and they incorporated it directly (sometimes with a few minor changes) into the remarks that get put into the Congressional record. This isn't the fault of Genentech or its lobbyists -- who, of course, are going to push for such things. The really damning part is that all of these Congressional reps don't seem to think there's any problem at all with simply taking text directly from a company and putting it into their own remarks as if they agree on the concept, when they don't even seem to understand what they're saying half of the time. Often these sorts of Congressional remarks are later used to show "Congress' intent" in doing certain things. But, perhaps they should just start being upfront and honest about the fact that these remarks are "the industry's intent" and simply signing them with the companies that actually wrote the language (or at least tagging the remarks with the name of the company/industry group that wrote it).


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    elpookie (profile), Nov 19th, 2009 @ 11:00pm

    industry intent

    Excellent idea. And you are quite right about the use of the "intent" language to interpret legislation. While not controlling overall it is deemed at least "persuasive" evidence of the intent of congress in passing a particular piece of legislation and it is given a degree of deference that perhaps it does not merit if the true source were known. Or course, I am somewhat biased against some politicians (affiliation does not matter). I would not dare insult cockroaches by comparing them to politicians.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2009 @ 11:04pm

    Mm. Lay a trail. List of congressional fund donators, list of 'language providers', compare, contrast, see who's buying legislation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2009 @ 11:17pm

    Would you just listen to yourselves. Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a politician these days? I mean, between the tweetering and the endless corruption and our problems with functional illiteracy, what can I say?

    We are trying our best and while our best is about as good as your worst it's the only thing you've got.

    You remember that the next time you go to vote. Ha! You won't vote because you've lost faith in the system and I feel your pain. But I feel my joy way more.

    Here. Have a button.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2009 @ 11:22pm

    "Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." - Mark Twain

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 19th, 2009 @ 11:28pm

    "What's worse, a politician or a lawyer? Answer? Both." - Anonymous

     

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    Mr Big Content, Nov 19th, 2009 @ 11:47pm

    How Dare They

    Did those lobbyists get paid for the wholesale copying of their precious Intellectual Property? Or are the members of Congress just deadbeat thieving copyright freeloaders?

    Remember, authors must get paid, otherwise they will never produce anything.

     

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      Chargone (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 12:31am

      Re: How Dare They

      i'm fairly sure that would be a Good thing in this case.

      too bad it's not how things actually work.

      i find the above amusing however :)

       

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    Chris in Utah (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 12:52am

    Do us a favor

    Mike, Do us a favor next time you got 5 minutes to kill watch "How Stuff Works". It is a cartoon about the evil free market, and yes it was shown to kids. Might give you some clue why congress doesn't matter anymore.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 5:41am

      Re: Do us a favor

      Congress kills the free market. Neither republicans nor democrats are free market capitalists. They're just tyrant plutocrats. Especially republicans but democrats aren't much better and they have their issues.

       

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        Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 7:25am

        Re: Re: Do us a favor

        Congress kills the free market.


        Agreed. There is no free market with congress setting the ground rules.

        To me what we have seems like the twisted progeny of the entrenched mercantilism/statism system from the 19th century. Sure we've gone to paper currency and dropped the "fixed" view of mercantilism, but the mechanism seems entirely unchanged over 150 years.

        Free market gets a lot of lip service, but unfortunately the term is attributed to a system entirely different from the definition.

         

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    John Doe, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 4:08am

    This is exactly why we don't need government run healthcare

    We don't need government run healthcare for two reasons. One it is government run. Two because it isn't government run, it will be run my the healthcare industry who is already in charge. There are many things that can be done to help the uninsured but a government takeover of the industry should be the last option, not the first step.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 5:47am

      Re: This is exactly why we don't need government run healthcare

      I'm going to go one step further, and I hope the politicians will hear this because they will love it.

      The government doing anything should be a last option, not the first step.

      I don't know why more politicians don't follow that rule. They'd get payed to sit around and do a lot less.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 7:28pm

      Re: This is exactly why we don't need government run healthcare

      We don't need government run healthcare for two reasons.

      And the quicker we get rid of Medicare, the better.

       

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    John Q. Public, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 5:07am

    Voter Appathy

    When is congress going to start doing what they were elected to do? Why even waste money on elections. In the past, they at least tried to cover up their corruption.

     

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    Moron N Ahurry, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 6:04am

    Don't give them slack...

    If they actually had to come up with their own thoughts, they'd spend so much time doing WORK, they wouldn't have time to seduce young interns.

    Let's face it, a man needs to have priorities...

     

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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    Congressional Record

    I remember reading in a book by John Stossel on how much it costs to print one page of the Congressional Record (a lot of taxpayer money) and how it is blatantly used for this type of self promotion and congratulation by our congress critters.

     

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    deadzone (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 6:29am

    Disgusting

    Our system is broken. I say scrap it and start over again. We can start with Term Limits and doing away completely with Lobbyists.

     

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    Shawn (profile), Nov 20th, 2009 @ 6:43am

    Lobbyist

    I will never understand why more people are not upset about lobbyists being so prevelant in our government. It seem rediculous that this is allowed and that the person with the most money, gets the most lobbyists, gets the most laws passed in their favor. Just look at AT&T.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Lobbyists controling Congress

    Congress is not going to rebel against the people that own them.

     

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    Duncan Dow, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 5:03pm

    Surprised ? Really?

    So is it possible the most hated man in our country, no not George, Ralph Nader has been correct ? There is no difference between the parties, or very little? They are both run by the corporations which them the lion's share of re-election campaign funds?

    Nah, can't be true.

     

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