Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Thanks Democrats! You Just Made Politics Even More Corrupt!

Democrats have done a very bad thing. They, in their zeal to be the “protectors” of American politics, have completely eradicated a form of political expression and representation by adopting new rules that effectively kill the tools used by advocacy groups, associations and other lobbying entities. I’m not talking about the millions of dollars that were used by bad apples like Abramoff, but the simple, “get to know you” types of actions that are a mainstay of human interaction – informal lunches.

On the surface, we’ve been made to think that lobbying is a bad thing. Most Americans associate lobbyists with bribery, cheating and backroom deals. While the cases of people such as Abramoff and Murtha may have seemingly proven this perception, the reality is that most lobbyists are ordinary folks. We’re not trying to buy votes – we’re just trying to represent our members and clients – who are, after all, voters themselves.

I work at an association that represents nearly 30,000 people from across the county. Our members are primarily first responders, people who are generally considered heroes. I think someone would be hard pressed to call us a “special interest group” because that phrase usually has a negative connotation (thanks to the media), even though that’s exactly what we are. We represent the special interests of our members, because their interests are different – more specialized – than those of the general population.

Our association does not have a PAC (political action committee) that raises, and then donates, money to Congressional campaigns. As a result, we communicate with Congress the old fashioned way – by going to Capitol Hill and discussing our issues with Congressional staff in person, at lunch briefings, etc. We do not “buy votes” as some might say. We use our collective influence to let Members of Congress know that what they do might hamper (or help) the ability of our members to do their jobs.

Thanks to the characteristic misperception of problems by democrats, lobbyists (remember, suspend your negative association with that word) are now barred from communicating effectively on behalf of their members and constituencies. All of these knee-jerk “let’s reform government” talking points ends up being self-defeating in the end. The democratic Congress has now traded away the rights of their constituents to lobby by barring almost every form of normal human interaction between Members of Congress, their staff, and the general public.

While limiting things like lunches and trips may sound reasonable on the surface (because we are so accustomed now of thinking of our elected leaders as cheats), these types of moves don’t do anything but force corruption deeper underground. Limiting our ability to educate lawmakers by inviting them to lunch so that we can explain our positions without interruption will not stop corruption. It will kill the smaller voices who need to be heard, and increase the power of the elites who actually do have inside access to politicians.

Here’s the conspiratorial irony behind the new democratic rules. Those with the most power, money and influence will not be affected by this change. If anything, it will encourage more organizations to start playing the campaign contribution game, since that will become the only way for a group (or individual) to be heard. And now that the other perks are gone, Congress will eschew any further attempt to curb campaign abuse because that will be their only source of gaining influence and power. And campaign money is where the real corruption exists.

The democrats have created an environment where the problems of corruption will go deeper underground, and thus have a more insidious effect on politics. Power is addictive, and money is the fuel that drives the race to gain more power. Curbing lobbyist lunches will not fix this.

By paying lip service to the concerns of the left-wing and the media, the democrats have just created a more powerful class of elites. Those few who have so much money as to have direct access to whomever they please are now the only people who will have access. The rest of us can either start playing this dangerous game, or let the voices of those we represent fade into darkness. We can thank Ms. Pelosi and her party for this wonderful choice.

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