What is wrong with the American Government – PART 1


December 26, 2002

Figure 1

The way I see it, there are four basic things wrong with the way our government operates here in America. Fix any one of these things and we would go a long way in improving a very corrupt government:

  1. Paid Lobbyist
  2. Non-term limits
  3. Excessive Spending of Taxpayer money
  4. The Tax System

In this article I will deal with Part 1 – Paid Lobbyist. I will cover the other three parts in future articles.

What is Lobbying?

According to Britannica.com it is any attempt by individuals or private interest groups to influence the decisions of government; in its original meaning it referred to efforts to influence the votes of legislators, generally in the lobby outside the legislative chamber. Lobbying in some form is inevitable in any political system.

Lobbying in and of itself is not really that bad. Some could argue that this blog is a form of lobbying to influence the decisions of government – though I doubt many of our so-called leaders today will be influenced by it.

What I am against is actually paying people to lobby in ones, or one group’s, self interest. To me it seems to close to bribery to be considered legal.

Example: According to OpenSecrets, the pharmaceutical industry has spent $101 million lobbying on behalf of 483 clients in 2022, fighting Democratic efforts to rein in prescription drug costs. That is double the amount of the next largest industry.

My belief is that if you take away the incentive of the lobbyist and the politician, the money, there will be less lobbying in congress and more will actually get done. How long has the government talked about lowering drug prices and how many bills have been passed to no satisfaction as to actually lowering them?

According to Statista.com, this is what was spent on lobbying in 2021 for various industries in America. These numbers are in millions of dollars:

Figure 2

In a JAMA Internal Medicine Article on the National Library of Medicine Website I found the following:

From 1999 to 2018, the pharmaceutical and health product industry recorded $4.7 billion—an average of $233 million per year—in lobbying expenditures at the federal level, more than any other industry. Of the spending, the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America accounted for $422 million (9.0%), and the other 19 top companies and organizations in this industry accounted for $2.2 billion (46.8%). The industry spent $414 million on contributions to candidates in presidential and congressional elections, national party committees, and outside spending groups. Of this amount, $22 million went to presidential candidates and $214 million went to congressional candidates. Of the 20 senators and 20 representatives who received the most contributions, 39 belonged to committees with jurisdiction over health-related legislative matters, 24 of them in senior positions. The industry contributed $877 million to state candidates and committees, of which $399 million (45.5%) went to recipients in California and $287 million (32.7%) went to recipients in 9 other states. In years in which key state referenda on reforms in drug pricing and regulation were being voted on, there were large spikes in contributions to groups that opposed or supported the reforms.

With this kind of money flowing into the hands of those influencing congress on laws that need to be passed, is it any wonder that nothing is being done to really help the American people?

Who is getting this money? It is not all going to the actual lobbyist – though they get a large sum of it. I found this on the CBS News Website from November 2, 2021:

Big Pharma spending $263M to keep drug prices high

The pharmaceutical industry has spent nearly $263 million on lobbying so far this year, employing three lobbyists for every member of Congress, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. Millions of those dollars are in the form of campaign donations. 

“They have really endless resources to throw at shaping the outcomes of legislation,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of OpenSecrets. 

Congressman Scott Peters, a Democrat, sparked protests outside his San Diego district office when he came out against a plan to cut drug costs for seniors earlier this year. He’s received nearly $130,000 from the industry this year, according to OpenSecrets data.

About $100,000 has been donated to Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema this year. Senator Robert Menendez, also a Democrat, has taken nearly $80,000 in 2021. 

“Bottom line is I’m supporting a price negotiation bill that has been worked out. What I’ve said since the very beginning of the discussion, how do we ensure that consumers at the counter get relief,” Menendez said when asked what message he’s sending by taking money from the pharmaceutical industry. 

All three Democrats have praised the compromise on drug prices, saying it will save Medicare billions of dollars while closing loopholes. Progressive Democrats have praised the deal, but say it shows Big Pharma’s influence on the legislative process. 

Marylin Rose said her chronic myeloid leukemia would be a death sentence without her daily medication, which can cost up to $10,000 a month. 

“I say it’s my stay alive pill,” she said. 

But she worries that her bill could soar without a curb on prescription drug prices. 

“It’s a miracle that the drug exists. But the idea that I’m beholden to it is really a little scary,” she said. 

So, as you can see, the politicians are being paid (and I would suspect this to be true on both sides of the isle). But what are the actual lobbyist making?

According to Kiiky.com; A lobbyist’s annual compensation in the United States is roughly $49,735 a year. Lobbyists make an average of $49,735 a year. Wages typically range from $37,137 to $112,990 per year. However, there are some high achievers. The top 20 can be seen as follows from this October 31, 2022 article:

Figure 3

This article also tries to answer the question … Is Lobbying Legal or is it Bribery? This is what they have to say:

Lobbying is bringing together a group of like-minded people, industries, or entities in order to influence a governing body or a lawmaker, usually through financial donations.

Bribery is defined as the payment of something—either money, goods, or an intangible favor—in exchange for a benefit or special treatment, or to gain an advantage over others.

Lobbying is legal in the United States, but bribery is not. Bribery is an attempt to gain power, whereas lobbying is only an attempt to influence it; the distinction is blurry.

In my opinion they are very correct. The distinction between legal lobbying and illegal bribery is so blurry that paid lobbyist need to be outlawed, as well as allowing politicians to take this money from lobbyists organizations. I am not being paid for this piece, nor do I want to be, even though it is a form of lobbying and will be sent to the two senators here in Mississippi.

Before leaving this subject, allow me to bring your attention to one other article I found from a person who was a lobbyist that was paid relatively well, but gave it up because his conscience couldn’t take it anymore. This is an article on Vox.com and basically has this to say …

I was a lobbyist between 2003 and 2010 in Washington, DC. I quit in disgust. Years of legalized bribery had exposed me to the worst elements of our country’s political workings. Not even my half-million-a-year salary could outweigh my conscience.

Now, before everyone gets their panties in a wad, let me be pointedly clear about something: I support lobbying and believe it’s an essential part of our constitutional right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Everyone in this country, from the left to the right, deserves a voice, and they should be heard loud and clear. If that means hiring a lobbyist to represent your point of view before Congress, awesomesauce. If that means you take to the streets, demand meetings and town halls with cowardly members of the House and Senate, or, better yet, run against them, I’m your biggest advocate.

But what I don’t support are Supreme Court rulings that have repeatedly told us money is an absolutely protected form of speech. A string of cases like Citizens United and others has opened the barn door to unlimited “dark money” campaign spending. Cases like Citizens gross me and most everyone else out because the result is the money in your politics becomes the voice in your politics. Americans’ right “to redress” comes at a cost, and if you don’t have the cash, chances are you’ll be ignored.

Bottom line: Those with the most money have the largest voices. Those with the least are rarely part of the process. That makes the legality of the practice of lobbying less relevant because it’s an uneven playing field.

I will not quote anymore of his article here, but I will encourage you to click on the link above “Vox.com” and read it for yourself. I think you may come to the same conclusion I have and that is since it is not a level playing field for all taxpayers (it’s uneven and slanted in favor of those with money) therefore, “Paid Lobbying” should be illegal.

Trust me, take away the pay and you will have far less lobbying and when you do have lobbying it will be for the good of everyone and not just those looking to profit (whether they be lobbyist, politicians or other special interest groups).

Conclusion

Now that you have my take on paid lobbyist, I’d be very interested in how you feel about them. Do you think outlawing pay for lobbyist will hurt or help the country we pay taxes to live in? Please feel free to leave your comments and opinions below.

Thanks,

Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC

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