Influence Peddling Booming Business As Economy Tanks
THE UNITED STATES MAY BE heading toward deep depression, but Washington is still a boomtown for influence peddlers who infest Capitol Hill.
With the White House and both houses in Congress now controlled by Democrats, lobbyists for corporate interests are salivating over the money they hope to rake in following the expected rash of legislation that will be coming down the pike in the next few years.
Corporate executives may be laying off record numbers of workers and cutting back on employee compensation and benefits, but they are not pinching pennies when it comes to buying influence in Washington.
Lobbyists are anticipating that Democrats will introduce a host of new measures that address healthcare, infrastructure, energy and financial services beginning mid January when the new legislative season kicks off.
At the top of the heap is the economic stimulus package proposed by President-elect Barack Obama, which will likely reach $850 billion, ranking it among the biggest federal expenditures in history. Lobbyists are scrambling to make sure that their corporate employers get a generous slice of taxpayer money while the legislation is still being negotiated.
Corporations are also worried about rumors that Democrats plan to hike taxes, and lobbyists are gearing up to tackle this hot-button
“A number of interests are extremely concerned that they are going to be hit with legislation, and this includes a number of parties who have not had to worry in the Republican era and now see a major threat,” Wright Andrews, who works for lobbying firm Butera & Andrews, told The Hill, a Capitol Hill periodical.
And that means big money for those who can open doors and manipulate the law-making process.
“Everyone I’ve talked to thinks it’s going to be a banner year,” said Andrews. “I’m just smiling, quite frankly, at what seems to be happening.”
That’s why it should not surprise anyone that, according to published reports, a third of top congressional staffers who left their posts in 2008 went to work for K Street lobbyists or other private groups that seek to shape government. Ethics laws require that legislators list aides who earn more than $127,000, making it easier for watchdog groups to track them.
In 2008, 32 out of 193 top staffers, who left their jobs working for Congress, registered with the government as lobbyists. Another 42 went to work for consulting firms, law offices, interest groups and trade associations.
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(Issue # 1, January 5 & 12, 2009)