Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Price of Power is Costing You Your Voice in Government

Main Street may be struggling -- but K Street is paved with gold.
K Street Sign

While the rest of the economy has been moving along sluggishly since the turn of the century, the business of influencing your elected leaders has been booming. Take a look at these developments over the last five years:

  • The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has nearly doubled -- from 16,342 to 34,785
  • The prices they charge have risen from $10,000 a month -- to as much as $25,000
  • Nearly half of all retiring Congressmen take lobbying jobs
  • An aide to a top Congressman can make twice as much as his boss -- around $300,000 starting salary -- going to work at a lobbying firm

Compare that kind of influence to the kind you have -- a 37-cent stamp on a letter to your Congressman. This could be bad news for those of us who don't have the ear of our Congressman or Senator. Allan Cigler, a Political Scientist at the University of Kansas tells the Washington Post:

"We've got a problem here. The growth of lobbying makes even worse than it is already the balance between those with resources and those without resources."

And the nature of the business has changed, too. It used to be that lobbying was "reactive." That is, businesses hired lobbyists to fend off legislation that might hurt them.

Now it's very "proactive" -- companies hiring lobbyists to draft bills that will specifically benefit them. The Washington Post cites the example of Hewlitt-Packard which crafted a bill giving the company tax breaks on $14.5 billion in overseas profits. (WashPost)

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