Friday, January 25, 2008

On the revolving door

Bipartisan lobbying firms serve rosters of blue-chip corporate clients. To push the Bush administration's Medicare drug benefit bill on Capitol Hill, the pharmaceutical manufacturers hired Democratic lobbyists Vic Fazio, a former Democratic congressman; David Beier, who had been a chief domestic policy adviser to Al Gore; and Joel Johnson, a former top aide to President Clinton and Senator Daschle [who also became a lobbyist after failing to get re-elected]. To push their side, the generic drug manufacturers hired Chris Jennings, who had helped devise Clinton's unlamented health plan, and former Republican Mark Isakowitz, who had helped defeat the Clinton plan. Similarly, in 1998, when tobacco companies wanted to sell Congress the settlement they had reached with state attorneys general over tobacco health claims, they turned for help to both Republican and Democratic lobbyists, including former Gore aide Peter Knight, the former Demcratic governer Ann Richards, and George Mitchell, former Democratic Senate majority leader.

While nonbusiness interests have better access to power under Democratically controlled government than under Republican, businesses have excellent access under both. Upon leaving office, more than half of the senior officials of the Clinton administration became corporate lobbyists. Clinton's first legislative director left his post after less than a year to become chairman of Hill & Knowlton Worldwide. Clinton's deputy chief of staff departed in less than a year to run the U.S Telephone Asociation. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1998 and 2004 more than 2,200 former high-ranking federal officials, from both Republican Democratic administrations, registered as federal lobbyists, as did over 200 former members of Congress. By 2003, more than half the total number of former members of Congress who were registered lobbyists had served as Democrats. Almost all were lobbying for large corpoarations.

-- Robert Reich, Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life


Jennifer said...

Seems like government is now really a large corporation serving corporate interests.

Totally unrelated, but I just watched a great documentary about the military industrial complex that you might like, it's called "Why We Fight." It was very illuminating.

Hume's Ghost said...

Members of Congress spend all of their time trying to keep happy the people who purchase their election. That's mostly corporate lobbyists.

The whole point of Reich's book is that money and market forces have overwhelmed democracy, and that we will need to make some adjustments (the recommendations of which are in the second half of the book which I haven't gotten to yet.)

Thanks for the link.