The Lobbying-Industrial Complex Strikes Again

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According to a story featured in our Morning Reads, the American League of Lobbyists is changing its name to the more anodyne “Association of Government Relations Professionals.”

While lobbying may have a bad name, it remains a darn good investment, as a comprehensive report by The Washington Post on the explosion of wealth in the Washington, DC area reveals…

At a time when promising investments were hard to find, corporate America learned that lobbying was one of the most surefire ways of bolstering its bottom line…

Companies spent about $3.5 billion annually on lobbying at the end of the last decade, a nearly 90 percent increase from 1999 after adjusting for inflation, political scientist Lee Drutman notes in a forthcoming book, “The Business of America Is Lobbying.”

Why the dramatic leap? Most big companies long shied away from lobbying outside a narrow band of issues. That started to change in the mid-1990s. Under a pro-business Congress, which invited their participation in policy debates, industry groups won big victories such as permanent normal trade relations with China and the deregulation of telecommunications, Drutman said. Corporate executives saw how those victories made them money, and they shed their inhibitions about playing in the world of government…

The more companies spend on influence, the lower their effective tax rates and the higher their stock returns compared with competitors’, according to recent research. A company called Strategas has built an index to track the stock performance of the 50 companies that lobby the most; last year, that index outperformed the rest of the market by 30 percent.

The fact that this practice is perfectly legal doesn’t change the fact that it’s a prime example of government corruption.

In the United States, we tend to take this state of affairs as normal. We grumble about it, but assume that this is just how things work in a wealthy democracy. But as I wrote back in August, economists who study the relationship between political connections and corporate fortunes say that the value of ties between businesses and governments vary from country to country. In the UK, for example, a company’s political connections are worth very little. In Italy, those same kinds of connections yield windfall profits.

And, unfortunately, the research shows that we’re a lot closer to Italy than the UK.

Joshua Holland is a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter or drop him an email at hollandj [at] moyersmedia [dot] com.
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  • strider367

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    Abraham Lincoln
    November 19, 1863

    Somehow we the people have been removed from this government. While these lobbyist have paid their way in. This has to end now…

  • Anonymous

    As the kids used to say, PWNED!

  • Al

    We the people HAVE been removed from this government; voting makes little difference. i had such high hope with Barack Obama and he has made some good changes, but the lobbyists are worst than ever and I fear our voices are not being heard at all anymore. Secrecy abounds; the environment is in serious trouble and most people have no idea what is happening and maybe they don’t care anymore. It is a scary time.

  • Roland

    For the past forty-five years the American people have consistently run from freedom and democracy toward the dark ages. Now that it is becoming clear what that meant there are no do overs; you made or beds and now you must sleep in them, serfs.
    Roland

  • http://www.ferrocement.com/ Garrett Connelly

    You are not an American serf, right?

  • Roland

    Alas, but I am! Would that I could escape to a free land. I hope that you can avoid realising that you are too.
    Roland

  • Anonymous

    When are “consultants” er former elected officials, who take their inside government information and now sell it for a seven figure salary, going to be required to register? And we will we insist a moratorium of years, on those elected officials moving into the private sector, immediately from their gov position, going to be required?

    Rats can change their name, but if they look like, smell like, and act like a rat, they are indeed a rat!

  • http://www.ferrocement.com/ Garrett Connelly

    Too late for avoidance, Roland. But not to late to struggle, even if only like a doomed game fish.