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ETHICS: Lobbyist-Special Interest Groups

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posted on Aug, 3 2004 @ 11:36 PM
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In several of the Campaign 2004 topics the question of lobbyists and special interest groups eventually rears its ugly head. All the good ideas and proposals in the world can't circumvent the stranglehold these groups have over our elected officials.

 

State legislatures are implementing stronger and tougher guidelines for lobbyists to operate within. The goal is to promote more ethical behavior, thus reducing the risks of politicians becoming beholden to special interests over their constituency.

The State of Conneticut has implemented the following:


1.) requires lobbyists to file disclosure reports electronically after January 1, 1999 and requires the State Ethics Commission post the reports on the Internet; 2.) requires individuals who make more than $1,000 in independent campaign expenditures or expenditures to influence a referendum to file disclosure reports; 3.) lowers the threshold from $1,000 to $100 for political committees to report the occupation and employer of contributors; and 4.) prohibits lobbyists from making campaign contributions to candidates for statewide office during the legislative session (Connecticut law already bans in-session contributions to legislative candidates)


IMO these are the kinds of changes necessary on a federal level.

What are the opinions of my fellow democrats, republicans and greens on the issue of lobbyists and special interest groups?

What are the presidential candidates positions on these issues?




posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 08:20 AM
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I totally agree bleys (as usual, we seem to be on the same page politically), of course this agreement is coming from a fellow Libertarian. However I can't find an official Libertarian party stance on this issue. I searched their site and Michael Badnarik's as well. But something definately needs to be done!

I believe lobbyists need to exist but they are abusing their power under current regulations and are running rampant.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 02:37 PM
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How are the "Reforms" working in Connecticut?
As mention in the presciption drug thread
www.abovetopsecret.com...
lobbyists inflate drug prices to the consumer. The same could be said in all areas where lobbyists have a disproportionate influence. They tell us what we want, when we want it and how much we should pay for it. They tell us to sue and they rewad us for not growing things.

I'm not sure if it could work, but I think we don't need most lobbyists as they do not reflect the citizens. They keep big government big.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 04:00 PM
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Originally posted by DontTreadOnMe
How are the "Reforms" working in Connecticut?


Glad you asked - I found this plan to be so encouraging that I have sent off several emails to members of the CT state legislature requesting comment. I'll post them when I get replies.

 

But I am also curious about the official Republican and Democratic response to this question. Where do the parties stand - have they ever introduced similar legislation or even debated the issue?



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 04:41 PM
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Merriam-Webster:
Main Entry: 2lobby
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): lobbied; lobbying
intransitive senses : to conduct activities aimed at influencing public officials and especially members of a legislative body on legislation
transitive senses
1 : to promote (as a project) or secure the passage of (as legislation) by influencing public officials
2 : to attempt to influence or sway (as a public official) toward a desired action

Influence for who's benefit? I would be behind the first candidate that would throw these proverbial money-leanders out of the temple. He certainly would be a savior. Throwing money at politicians to get a desired outcome is plain wrong.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 04:52 PM
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If I may speak for the Libertarian position the answer is to look at the root of the problem as it has always been: Big Government. Lobbyists exist to influence the government to grant special favors the free market will not abide. The answer is simple, reduce the size, scope and power of the government and lobbyists will begin to disappear. When it becomes less efficient for a company to put money into the government rather then put money into its products, lobbying will no longer exist.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 05:00 PM
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Originally posted by Mainer
If I may speak for the Libertarian position the answer is to look at the root of the problem as it has always been: Big Government. Lobbyists exist to influence the government to grant special favors the free market will not abide. The answer is simple, reduce the size, scope and power of the government and lobbyists will begin to disappear. When it becomes less efficient for a company to put money into the government rather then put money into its products, lobbying will no longer exist.


That would work, in theory, now factor in the human element. Would you rather be driving a Ford or a Benz? Sure not all people would take the bait but after a while you would get jaded, "If everyone else is doing it, why am I holding out?" Lobbying has to be made ILLEGAL.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 05:03 PM
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You can increase the laws all you wish. The lobbying will just go underground (bribery), or be salvaged as free speech. The only solution is to get rid of the target.

[edit on 4-8-2004 by Mainer]



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 05:08 PM
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That's the problem, if you are an elected official, YOU are the target. The practice is so rampant it's acceptable. I can't believe that it isn't illegal now.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 05:13 PM
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It will be too difficult to make illegal, free speech issues will come into play. The target here is not the individual that is in the position, but the power to influence that the position itself holds. The position itself must lose the great power to influence in order to lose the interest of the lobbyist. Corruption is part of government, reduce government to reduce the corruption.

[edit on 4-8-2004 by Mainer]

[edit on 4-8-2004 by Mainer]



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 05:17 PM
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Now that's something I could get behind. Thanks Mainer.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 05:20 PM
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You got it
, Thx for the counterpoint.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 06:43 PM
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There is nothing wrong with like minded citizens organizing, contributing of their own free will, and demanding their First Amendment rights before the government. It is practically essential in pressing for the rights of any given minority group less likely to be heard in any other way due to geographical dispersment and the weight of (sometimes unconstitutional) majority opinion.

And to understand the depth and breadth of the kind of special interests groups I'm defending here, allow me to include one I routinely disagree with, but defend equally: The NRA.

I similarly see the need for Workers Unions and Small Business Interests to organize and make themselves heard. Again, I stress the idea that anyone organizing and giving of their own free will should be allowed to do so and have a voice.

Where one draws the line is murky, but I know corruption when I see it. When a handful of corporations already monopolizing an industry gather together to buy favors in government against the interests of the people, corruption is afoot.

One only has to look at who gives what, and follow the resulting policy to understand why:

Pharmaceutical Industry Gave GOP More Than $35 Million Since 1999. Over the past five years, the pharmaceutical industry has given national Republicans $35,560,693; 78 percent of that industry's total political contributions. [Center for Responsive Politics]


The result:

Health care costs have spiraled out of control on Bush's watch-while drug company profits have exploded. Costs have increased at a rate of more than 10 percent each year and have accelerated faster each year in Bush's presidency. Despite a $400 billion grab-bag for the pharmaceutical industry in the form of a Medicare prescription drug plan, Bush has proposed no comprehensive solution to control the cost of health care.

A few of the many bullets from: democrats.org (Healthcare Reports)

Prescription Drug Industry Pushing Health Care Inflation
Drug Costs are the Major Driving Force Behind Increased Health Care Costs. The cost of the 10 most popular prescription drugs has gone up and average 8.7 % over the last year alone. Prescription drugs now account for 23 percent of American's out-of-pocket costs. [AdvancePCS, 8/25/03, www.advancepcsrx.com; New York Times, 1/9/04]

Bush Administration Uses Medicare Legislation To Line Pockets of Drug Industry. The new legislation explicitly prohibits Medicare from directly negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, an effective cost control solution "in place for virtually every other major provider of Medicare services." The provisions will add an additional $139 billion to the cost of the bill over the next eight years in increased drug industry profits, according to Ben Peck of the Medicare Rights Center. [In These Times, 1/5/04]

Bush FDA Appointee Pushing To Increase Drug Profits, Not Reduce Prices. Not content to block the re-importation of drugs 40 to 60 percent cheaper from Canada in the new Medicare prescription drug bill, Bush FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan is pioneering an initiative to demand that other nations raise their drug prices to bring them in line with the United States. [The Hill, 11/19/03; The Times Union, 12/12/03; Washington Post, 12/17/03; Wisconsin Office of the Governor, www.wisgov.state.wi.us; Boston Globe, 1/18/04]


The special evil I see in the purchased favors of a lobby like Pharmaceuticals is I was forced to contribute to that $35 million gift to the GOP. We all were. While I have no problem sending $50 to the ACLU, or my neighbor sending $100 to the NRA and either of those groups pleading our respective cases to the government, I do see corruption in any corporate giving and lobbying when I am required to support that lobbying against my best interests by the required nature of a purchase like Medicine (or for that matter Oil, Gas, Electricty, Insurance, etc.)

Lastly, the Libertarian argument that the problem is the governemnt is simplistic. While accurately asserting that there'd be less special favors or need for special interests at all given less government...


Originally posted by Mainer
The answer is simple, reduce the size, scope and power of the government and lobbyists will begin to disappear.


That does little but ensure the will of already powerful corporations. I can't think of anything the ever increasingly monopolistic broadcasters would enjoy more than the disbanding of the FCC. Or the sheer Pharmaceutical tyranny that would result without a strong FDA. I'm not willing to let "the market" bare out the fruits of poison, to steer the Pharmaceuticals toward self regulation. There's not a corporation on Earth I trust to do the right thing considering my interests on equal footing with there own.

But outlawing Special Interests is NOT the answer. In many respects, the only solution may lie in one such as the AARP.



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 07:10 PM
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Originally posted by Mainer
It will be too difficult to make illegal, free speech issues will come into play. The target here is not the individual that is in the position, but the power to influence that the position itself holds. The position itself must lose the great power to influence in order to lose the interest of the lobbyist. Corruption is part of government, reduce govenment to reduce the corruption.

[edit on 4-8-2004 by Mainer]



Well said.

The solution is to starve this monster we call Government till it has JUST enough power to do its job, not a bit more.

Whats the use of bribing someone that CANNOT get you any special treatment?



posted on Aug, 4 2004 @ 10:05 PM
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Originally posted by RANT
Lastly, the Libertarian argument that the problem is the governemnt is simplistic. While accurately asserting that there'd be less special favors or need for special interests at all given less government...


Originally posted by Mainer
The answer is simple, reduce the size, scope and power of the government and lobbyists will begin to disappear.


That does little but ensure the will of already powerful corporations. I can't think of anything the ever increasingly monopolistic broadcasters would enjoy more than the disbanding of the FCC. Or the sheer Pharmaceutical tyranny that would result without a strong FDA. I'm not willing to let "the market" bare out the fruits of poison, to steer the Pharmaceuticals toward self regulation. There's not a corporation on Earth I trust to do the right thing considering my interests on equal footing with there own.


Mainer's proposal may be simplistic - but often simple answers yield the best results.

I found a little "op-ed" piece that supports his point.



But even if every lobbyist was amoral (which certainly isnt true), that doesnt mean regulatory restrictions on the profession would be effective or desirable. In large part, this is because Sens. Kerry and Edwards are trying to treat the symptoms while ignoring the underlying disease. The real problem is that government is too big and has too much power -- and this attracts lobbyists for the same reason that rotten meat attracts flies.

and


But this isnt a partisan issue. Republicans control the White House and Congress, yet spending has climbed to record levels -- and the budget is growing much faster than it did the last time Democrats controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Little wonder that recent reports show that lobbying expenditures also have reached all-time highs.


The entire article can be found here

Is there anything wrong with like-minded individuals organizing and exercising their first amendment rights? Of course not. But there is something very wrong when the interests of those like minded indivduals supercede the interests of a politician's constituency or the best interests of the country.



posted on Aug, 7 2004 @ 11:19 AM
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As I see it, a root problem lies in the definition of "The Corporation" as an actual entity deserving of "Rights." Individuals have an inherent right to representation in government, "Entities," should not. The influence of lobbyists is thus compounded by the voice of the individual lobbyist and of his/her benefactor. Further, the time has long past for the necessity for vastly dispersed voices to be heard by Government, rapid transportation and telecomunication having eliminated the need for individuals to physically go to Washington.

www.onelook.com... By any definition, the Corporation as legal entity, grantee of the rights of "Natural Entities," obfuscates purposefully the entire notion of individual rights. The very nature of Multi-national Corporations bring influences that would not/should not have any say in our Government. The limits of corporate liability and personal responsibility, should be matched by an equally limiting notion of rights granted such entities.

Some members have stated a belief that the elimination of lobbyists would lead to other forms of malfeasence such as bribery. How one logicaly follows the other is a leap that I am unwilling to take. Ample case law exists to address the issue of illegal influence peddling, strict prosecution of any instances must be applied.

I have yet to read a convincing argument in support of Lobbying in and of itself.



posted on Aug, 7 2004 @ 12:31 PM
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I see Lobbying as bribing. If everyone had money to pucsh their ideas through that would be one thing, but it seems this county is run by the rich and by corporations. We need to stop allowing this country to be controlled by a few people at the top, financially.

On of the things I have come to greatly respect about the Green Party is that they do not accept money from lobbyists of corporations. Donations are welcome but will not influence their priorities. This alone is a major plus for this party in my book. This party is about grassroots organizing and the voice of the people, not the rich.



posted on Aug, 11 2004 @ 06:28 PM
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IMO it is a sad statement that elected official's can so easily be "swayed" by special interest groups and the money offered to them. Yet, I cannot find fault in these groups for working a system that goes back in history as far as honest Abe and further. In a society that sees money first and maybe people later what do we expect? Let's look at the real menace here as being the ELECTED ones who ARE influenced by money, partisan promises, and even threats that range from bad to fatal and ask yourself this question before you decide whom to vote for: If the constitution of elected official's can be so easily compromised than what hands have we placed our American Constitution in? RESEARCH & decide.

[edit on 12/8/2004 by justus]



posted on Aug, 11 2004 @ 07:10 PM
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I'm glad someone brought up the NRA. Why do you all think that the NRA was considered a "special interst group" when the primary purpose of the NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) is to preserve our existing rights as Americans? Why is it that obviously partisan groups can create "political action groups" that avoid the new campaign finance reform laws while those that seek to preserve the constitution and the Bill of rights are silenced?
Who actually decides what a "special interest" is?



posted on Aug, 12 2004 @ 09:48 AM
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..............they ARE the Bush Administration

" I am also curious about the official Republican and Democratic response to this question......


You're asking two camps, but you'll get three responses: you might very well here a rage & call for reform by the Republican constituency; however, the officials they've put in are more along the lines of "What Lobby? Where!?"

From the Center for Public Integrity: Overall, 22 of the top 100 Bush officials had significant holdings in 33 companies that lobbied their departments, agencies or offices.
--Overall, 20 of the top 100 officials in the Bush administration, including all department heads, work in departments, agencies or offices that their former, private sector employers lobbied or from which they sought federal contracts in 2001.

more......

From the lobby to the office

Director of Legislative Affairs Nicholas Calio is the administration's top lobbyist on Capitol Hill; prior to joining the administration, he was one of the preeminent private lobbyists in Washington, working for the firm O'Brien Calio. In 1999, Calio represented a wide range of clients, from UPS to Anheuser Busch, Fannie Mae to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. According to his financial disclosures, he was often paid with stock in lieu of cash; his firm took home $3.18 million in 1999 alone, and slightly more than $9 million from 1997-99 for lobbying.

On his disclosure form, Calio listed as clients 21 separate firms, some of which lobbied the Executive Office of the President in 2001. Among those were Anheuser-Busch (taxes), Merrill Lynch and Fannie Mae (both on various banking issues).

Calio is hardly the only lobbyist among the 100 top officials. Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles represented various companies, including the Edison Electric Institute, the Aluminum Association, and Occidental Petroleum as a registered lobbyist with both National Environmental Strategies and J. Steven Griles and Associates. On behalf of his clients, Griles lobbied Congress, the Bureau of Land Management (on power plant construction), the Environmental Protection Agency (clean air regulations), the Energy Department (utility deregulation) and the Treasury Department (making sure the definition of "synfuels" allows his clients to qualify for a tax break), to name a few. Some of Griles' former clients, like Coastal Company and Devon Energy Corp., lobbied Interior during 2001.

Deputy EPA Administrator Linda Fisher served as vice president of government affairs for Monsanto prior to her appointment. She oversaw the chemical and agricultural products firm's lobbying effort to win approval for the use of genetically modified foods, of which Monsanto is a major producer.


Presidents set the tone, more than any other function of their office. We've had a president that has not only benefited by the quid pro quo of rampant corporate lobbies, but has taken them into his administration to be the foxes guarding the hen house?

THE RESULT?: Dramatic increases in the drain on the American pocket book occuring at the same time of record corporate profits & severly reduced regulation/oversight. So, not only are we poorer, but sicker & less safe from corporate malfesance.

And it's getting worse, read

Hired Guns: Lobbyists spend loads of money to influence legislators




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