50% Of 'Retiring' Senators Now Become Lobbyists, Up From 3% A Few Decades Ago

from the the-influence-business-is-good-business dept

This is from a little while ago, but Hunter Walk alerts us to a buried gem in a NY Times' book review of This Town by Mark Leibovich -- a book about Washington DC that sounds just horrific (not the book itself, but the concept of wanting to know any more about DC). The review notes that Leibovich buried an interesting statistic deep in the book:
in 1974, 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists. “Now 50 percent of senators and 42 percent of congressmen do.” No one goes home anymore.
We've talked plenty about the corrupting influences of the revolving door between industries and the government. Not all lobbyists or lobbying is bad, per se, but it's a symptom of the times we live in and the business of influence. It highlights the kind of "soft corruption" that Larry Lessig has been talking about for years, where it's not out-and-out bribery, but merely the promise of a cushy job down the road that can have tremendous impact on the way the government functions.

And, with so much money flowing into lobbying efforts, we're building a system where political entrepreneurship outweighs market entrepreneurship -- and that's exceptionally dangerous for our economy and our future. Political entrepreneurs -- those who manipulate the system for their own benefit -- tend to focus on locking up value, limiting competition and providing themselves with greater control over the market. Market entrepreneurs are more focused on innovation, expanding the pie and economic growth. Tragically, political entrepreneurs, via massive lobbying efforts, like to pretend they're about market entrepreneurship, and we get a system of crony capitalism that actually does significant harm to the economy.

When nearly half of everyone in Congress who is retiring jumps into that business of helping political entrepreneurship, the system is completely broken.


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  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 7:22am

    Outlawing lobbying may make things better. But that alone won't suffice. Maybe prevent politicians that championed any bill from working or receiving anything from said industry after they retire? Obviously it needs to be discussed. The way things are will get us nowhere.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 8:45am

    Good Money in Federal Politics

    "It highlights the kind of "soft corruption" that Larry Lessig has been talking about for years, where it's not out-and-out bribery, but merely the promise of a cushy job down the road that can have tremendous impact on the way the government functions. "

    In most countries this would be considered bribery, its only in america that its "almost".

     

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    James Burkhardt (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    I quote Jon Oliver:
    "I hate to say this, but Washington really had so much more integrity in the Watergate Era."

     

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  4.  
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    ioconnor (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    50% is probably true at all levels.

    Probably 50% of the soldiers end up working for private industries catering to the military. So of the 22 million government employees we probably have another 11 million selling to these 22 million. And then probably another 50 million making their money off this chain.

    Really what are we producing in this country that brings money to us? We can't just be a snake devouring its own tail all of the time.

     

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  5.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:05am

    Re:

    Which is why Watergate was such a big deal. If it happened today nobody would care.

     

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  6.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:07am

    Re: 50% is probably true at all levels.

    Really what are we producing in this country that brings money to us?

    Intellectual property.

    \sarc

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:18am

    Corporations have managed to corrupt 50% of each of the country's decision organs (that we know). There is no longer any possible legal way for we, the people to regain control.

    The balance of power has firmly shifted away from the people and into the hands of corporations. And there's no way to get it back.

     

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    beech, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:19am

    The only real fix is to include a vow of poverty into the oath of office. By accepting an office in government, you agree to never hold another job or make another dollar other than what your government pension allows. Former lawmakers will be housed in government issued housing with a cost of living allowance. And that s it. This plan will root out anyone looking to make a fortune out of ruling and leave us with those who just really want to make a difference for he greater good

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:39am

    add into that information that a ridiculously high number ALSO have high paid positions in entertainment, drug producing or banking industries and i'm surprised we have any copyright or trademark infringement issues at all!!

     

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    Bengie, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:47am

    Re:

    All lobbying must pass peer review in academics.

     

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  11. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    That's all you say about the copyright and patent systems too. They're "broken". But anyone can see the problems, doesn't take a college edumacation. Systems are always tending to breakage and abuse by bad actors movtivated by greed and power-lust.

    As a privileged Ivy League elite, you're supposed to at least be able to outline fixes. So let's have your notions.

    I've already outlined mine, first identified the bad actors: The Rich own the gov't and are the source of most problems in the world, including copyright and patent abuses, are always waging a class war because they profit from it, and the fix is to TAX THE HELL OUT OF 'EM. It's been tested through all history as the only non-violent way to keep people from going crazy with power and wrecking civilization.

    But that time-tested fix is ruled out by Corporatist Mike (silently, he never gives any substantive opinion), who views The Rich as the only productive part of society, besides counts them his pals.

    Reality versus Mike: Technorati ranks Techdirt # 6238.
    http://technorati.com/blogs/www.techdirt.com
    So why does Mike claim "a consistent Technorati Technology Top 100 rating"?
    http://www.techdirt.com/about.php

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: 50% is probably true at all levels.

    that's more accurate than you seem to realize.

     

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    OldMugwump (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:56am

    Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    Outlaw lobbying and you outlaw democracy - lobbying is the way the people make their views known to the government.

    Everyone seems to confuse the symptom for the disease.

    Corruption is a symptom. As long as government has the power to pick winners and losers, give money and tax breaks to politically-favored interests, rig markets and limit competition, people will find ways to corrupt those in power to ensure they get these goodies.

    The disease is too much discretion - too much power - in the hands of government. Until you cure that, fiddling with symptoms (lobbying, etc.) just moves the lump to a different spot under the carpet.

     

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    Jesse (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    Well you can't completely deregulate, for example, there are anti-trust laws for very good reasons.

     

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    Jesse (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:09am

    Re:

    The thought had occurred to me as well.

    It seems really draconian, and it is, but I can't see any other solution.

    You're also right that it would weed out people getting into politics for the wrong reasons. It truly would ensure that public servants are just that, servants of the public.

     

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    Keroberos (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re: 50% is probably true at all levels.

    Really what are we producing in this country that brings money to us?

    Imaginary property.

    \sarc


    Fixed that for you. ;)

     

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    Atkray (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:27am

    Re: Re:

    Just make it two or three times median income in any given year,recalculate it every five years, it would still be cheaper for the tax payers and would allow those who are elected to be comfortable but not extravagant.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    Maybe outlaw more of the political funding existing today?
    That would seem to bring the relationship between lobbyists and politicians to a far less economic negotiating/racketeering position and towards a sharing of opinions and information.

    Ideally funding of the political machine should happen from sources no politician can see or through public funding. Unfortunately that has not been achieved anywhere in the world yet.

    Corruption is a resource problem and lobbying is an information problem getting taken as a hostage in the resource problem.

    Just starving the beast is in no way gonna change the corrupt nature of politics by itself. You need far more targeted approaches to hit Business Software Association, Disney, Recording Industry Association of America, lawyers against tax reform, private market workers unions and several others who are not directly depending on public funding, but specific law-complexes giving them a business model. Unless you remove human beings from lawmaking you will not be able to curb that side of things.

     

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    OldMugwump (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    I didn't say completely deregulate.

    I said remove discretion and the ability to pick winners.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    Ironically this comment is a better example of the disease of putting too much government power in charge of education than it is an actual point.

     

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    OldMugwump (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    Political funding (campaign contributions, etc.) is just another symptom - not the disease. If you outlaw it, you just move the corruption to somewhere else (probably someplace even less visible).

    You need far more targeted approaches to hit Business Software Association, Disney, Recording Industry Association of America, lawyers against tax reform, private market workers unions and several others

    All those groups want certain laws passed, repealed, preserved, or modified, to benefit themselves.

    As long as government has the power to make laws that benefit some at the expense of others, the problem will persist.

    The only solutions I know of are:

    1) Take away the power to pass special-interest legislation. If a law preferentially benefits/harms some group, it would be unconstitutional.

    or,

    2) Enforce the takings clause of the 5th Amendment seriously. Allow the government to pass whatever laws it likes, but mandate 100% compensation for the losers (enforceable in the courts).

    The only way to pay for the compensation is to tax the winners - so the only laws that are fiscally possible are those that create more net win than net lose. (This was Richard Epstein's proposal in his book _Takings_.)

    I don't know of any other solutions to "cure the disease". (I'd be delighted to hear of any, tho.)

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    Re: Good Money in Federal Politics

    Not true. USA is just paving the way for these kinds of nasty things. It is completely legal in Denmark but has only truely being used in limited degrees. Carreer politicians are hired in ministries to write idea catalogs for politicians.

    One short-term politician got a cushy job at Microsoft after throwing everything at keeping open office out of public computers. Another longer-term politician got hired as a straight up lobbyist.

    Lobbyism has been relatively manageable in Europe, but through the last 20 years it has completely exploded. First in Bruxelles, then in national parliaments and now it has spread to lower level office, even though they are still struggling to hijack the local idealist politicians.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    Re:

    You'd be playing a constant game of wack-a-mole trying to shut down channels by which a third party can get money or gifts to these people effectively avoiding the block on 'holding a job.' Even if you did you'd still have to deal with the people for whom power is more important than money and just want to wield it as long as possible (pretty common already really) and significantly increase resistance to any kind of reform that would lead to a lower incumbency rate (which is already high).

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    So there's a few glaringly obvious issues here:

    1. Hypocrisy: it takes a real special kind of person to accuse someone of class warfare literally one phrase away from blaming 'most problems in the world' on 'The Rich.'

    2. Non sequitor: taking money from The Rich and giving it to the government by taxing it all off of them doesn't actually change anything. You've just exchange one small group in charge of most of the money for a slightly different group in charge of most of the money.

    3. No sources: Cite even one example of it 'working' please.

    4. Misrepresentation: Threatening people with violence if they don't give the government their money i.e. taxes is the opposite of non-violent.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    1) Would entail quite the line-drawing dilemma. Doesn't laws against murder harm some group? etc. I do not think there exists an area of law that doesn't preferentially harm/benifit a certain group.

    2) Is a very interesting thought, but again, given 1) it is quite a problem to draw the line. Is environmental standards a compensation inducing principle? Health? Worker safety standards? Abortion? economic redistribution programs for private people? Human rights? If it is everything, the taxation increase would need to be quite significant. Not to mention the war in economic theories that would make the calculations dubious at best.

    I like some of the ideas of Epstein, but I do not think it serves us well to make something that is needed in some places into a religious belief and use it to create policies in other areas.

    The way to do things would in any case revolve around non-corrupted politicians to get the ball rolling in the first place. In the end, that is what I see as the biggest problem, hence the political funding idea.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    4. Misrepresentation: Threatening people with violence if they don't give the government their money i.e. taxes is the opposite of non-violent.

    If taxation is violence because it is money given only under threat of violence, then using capital to turn a profit from the exploitation of labor under threat of starvation is genocide.


    That's how stupid your lolbertarian statement is.

    Taxes provide for common gains. Rich people pay more taxes because they receive more benefit from the state's protection.

     

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  27.  
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    RD, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:29am

    Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    "But that time-tested fix is ruled out by Corporatist Mike (silently, he never gives any substantive opinion), who views The Rich as the only productive part of society, besides counts them his pals."

    Wait, wait, WAIT. I thought "Pirate Mike" was a friend of the lazy, freeloading, freetarding, pirate, thief, stealers of other people's "property?"

    He can't both support the "thieves" AND the content producers (big, rich corporations) unless he is some diabolical criminal mastermind of the James Bond tradition, and those guys don't actually exist.

    You are incredible. You literally change your narrative every post just so you can take an opposing stance to whatever Mike posts. Talk about being clinically insane.

     

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  28.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    I'm still hoping one of the TD writers, maybe DH, will write up an article about how awesome air is, just so I can watch blue find him/herself in the position of going on and on about those 'filthy pirates stealing the air for free', how 'google is watching, and helping, people steal the air', and other such hilarious absurdities.

     

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  29.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    You've just exchange one small group in charge of most of the money for a slightly different group in charge of most of the money.

    Not only that, but you've given it to the group that has most of the guns and the jails. Seems like a bad combination.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    If there was only one place to get jobs you might have a point but there isn't so you don't.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 11:59am

    Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    Seems like a bad combination.


    A really, really, really bad combination IMHO.


    I've also asked Blue how would we go about determining who is to be considered "too rich" (I always seem to get the impression that Blue's line would be anyone making more money than him) and what kind of effects a "success tax" would have on our free market economy.

    He never answers the questions.

     

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  32.  
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    any moose cow word, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    Yep, ootb will be complaining about Pirate Mike™ and how his "advocacy" for "free air" are ruining his plans for a $200 million air purification plant.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    You're so intellectually dishonest you can't even admit that taxes are anything but non-violent? All that you've actually argued with "taxes provide for common gains" is that the ends justify the means. Maybe they do, maybe they don't but they are unequivocally based on the threat of violence. When people show up at your house or work with guns to take you to jail because you didn't pay taxes that's literally a threat of violence. To claim that a voluntary arrangement between employee and employer is made under similarly coercive circumstances is patently absurd.

     

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  34.  
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    another mike (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    Re:

    I'd actually reverse that. End 'politician' as a job series; make it a civic responsibility like jury duty. No salary and no pension, only a travel stipend. When they've served their term of office they go back to their day job.
    But we'll also apply Acquisition Ethics rules like the DoD has (or a meaningful version of the same). In the DoD, if you had anything to do with a company's success, like being granted (or denied) a contract, you or your family can't work for them for 5 years. You're also forced off the contract approval board if a family member already works for a company bidding on the contract. There's some other stuff as well, like caps on gifts from individual sources and from all sources per year, but that's the gist of it.
    So now that there's no more career politicians and the revolving door is locked, a lot of the problems just vanish.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    In fairness they've mostly outsourced the owning of jails to their politically connected cronies and are increasingly doing their level best to do the same with the guns (although even they aren't stupid enough to go whole hog on that one for now).

     

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  36.  
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    bioforge (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Congress should walk the streets

    All this really shows is how out-of-touch Congress has become with the people and how more in-touch they have become with big business. Have you tried making an apt with your congressman lately? It is about as easy as buying a house. Maybe if congress spent more time at home on recess and less time vacationing on lobbyists dime they would see the problems that lobbying create. When was the last time you heard of a senator or rep walking the streets of South Central LA or aurora IL?

     

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  37.  
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    Beech, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re:

    It wouldn't be a game of wack-a-mole, it would be a game of, "Your country thanks you for your service, now here are your quarters in the government owned monastery." Not actually a monastery, but that's the idea. Strict audits to make sure they haven't got anything else from everywhere else.

    As for power, i'm not sure it would attract many of those types. I mean, yeah, there's power...but after that you become totally impotent. no cushy jobs influencing those in power, no running giant businesses millions of people depend on, no fancy cars or jewels or houses or parties. Would such a plain lifestyle really be worth it to many of the truly power hungry?

    The major problem is that we can't let congress be control of it's own retirement plan, so we'd have to put someone else in control. Not the president or justices, unless they get a quid pro quo (correct latin phrase?) relationship going where they keep bumping up each other's pension plans. Also nepotism, where I bite the bullet and take the government job and pass legislation that will make my mom/wife/brother/family a ton of money.

     

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  38.  
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    Beech, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    Obviously taxing success is a no-no. You don't want someone working their tail off CEO-ing a huge company, only to get taxed back down to welfare status. But there are more fair ways of taxation. Like a flat %income tax for everyone, no loopholes (everybody pays 30% off the top). God had a similar plan, and that guy usually knows what he's doing.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: 50% is probably true at all levels.

    Also money, which is an imaginary concept today(fiat currency) which creates wealth were there is none(inflation and debt).

    I just can't trust this system anymore something is very wrong.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 1:50pm

    Re:

    Not entirely true, there is a way, but it is a lot of work and it will not be without confrontation.

    Do what pirates did, create parallel systems and start using those systems instead of the "official channels".

    Of course some will try to make it illegal and use the force of the state to stop it, there is where perseverance pays off and maybe a dash of stupidity to help ignore all the bad that could happen in the short term.

    Create meta institutions that start to take over the functions that government perform and show it to everybody else so that is the format that everybody expects to be the one that works, one of two things will happen, it either will fail miserably or force the government to adopt that format.

    For everything the government does there is a way to do it on the private side.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    Not sure how many taxes the guy mentioned collected tbh.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 1:54pm

    Re:

    It probably wouldn't work, people can find creative ways to bypass those limitations, politicians have family too, just give money to the part, to a "friend" or some other stuff this was tried before and they all bypassed those regulations quite easily only the truly dumb got caught.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 2:15pm

    Mike it seems, has unfortunately given up hope

    Mike: ""Not all lobbyists or lobbying is bad, per se""

    I call bullshit. All lobbying is bad.

    Democracy is not who shouts loudest or most frequently.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 5:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "the system is completely broken." -- YEAH, we know, Mike.

    Like a flat %income tax for everyone, no loopholes (everybody pays 30% off the top).


    I've always thought a flat, no loophole income tax was a good idea. Although, I thought the percentage needed to equal what we are collecting now was closer to 15%, but I could be wrong. As an added bonus, it would also free some of the cash needed to support a huge government bureaucracy like the IRS.

     

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    iFrugal, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 10:27pm

    conflict of interests

    If you knew you would probably end up becoming a lobbyist.... wouldn't that create a conflict of interest for current senators.

    Am I the only one concerned abou tthis

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 12:35am

    Re: Good Money in Federal Politics

    How do elderly fare in this market? Feinstein is 80+ and a spring chicken, if she is still verbal and not pointing rifles at news-people with saliva dripping from her chin anymore. I don't want to compete with lobbist owners. I may want to hire her. Soft porn grannies are the rage.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 1:23am

    Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    Outlaw lobbying and you outlaw democracy - lobbying is the way the people make their views known to the government.

    Lobbying is the inverse of a democratic process. Politicians should consult with their electorate, and could do so now because of modern communications. Lobbying means that politicians are listening to special interest groups rather than the people they are meant to represent.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Outlawing lobbying may make things better.

    Lobbying IS consulting with the electorate. A phone call drive from ordinary people is a form of lobbying. It's a far more encompassing term that just businesses that hire themselves out to other businesses to lobby the government.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 4:28am

    Re: Mike it seems, has unfortunately given up hope

    If you've ever called your representative you've engaged in lobbying. All lobbying isn't bad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Mike it seems, has unfortunately given up hope

    But why should your voice be equivalent to, or even more important than the thousands who don't phone their representative ?


    It's not bad if the issue you are lobbying for is....
    It is bad if the issue someone is lobbying for is....

    You cant have it both ways.
    EG... Good when you do it, bad when Oil industry does it.


    Social lobbying via pressure is the generally accepted line.
    HOWEVER is that social lobbying not what voting is for ?


    Stand by my statement that pretty much all lobbying is bad.
    Of course when the reason for lobbying is good, that statement becomes harder to say. Still stands though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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