90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Lobbyists in Washington

Lobbyists on the loose in Washington. What do they want now and what are lawmakers handing over? On finance. Campaign spending. We’ll get the story.

The Capitol dome in Washington. (AP)

The Capitol dome in Washington. (AP)

Lobbyists on the loose in Washington.

What do they want now and what are lawmakers. handing over? On finance. Campaign spending. Gun rights. Healthcare. And much more. Lobbying is big business in Washington.

Everyone’s in the game— from the American Cancer Society and car dealers to the NRA and environmental groups. The image of Abramoff-style corruption and fat cats with cigars prevails but it’s just part of the picture.

This hour, On Point: Lobbying and what’s at stake for the country — right now


Paul Singer, associate editor and senior investigative reporter for Roll Call.

Tom Ferguson, political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He’s author of “Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Politics.”

Nicholas Allard, he chairs the lobbying, political and election law practice at Patton Boggs in Washington DC. He has served on the staffs of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Senator Edward Kennedy.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Brett

    Lobbyists ARE on the loose in Washington! Who in the hell let them out??? And why have they not been put back in their cages?

  • Michael

    “Lobbyists on the loose in Washington. What do they want now and what are lawmakers handing over?”

    Watered downed regulations, more military contacts,Subsidies for companies that don’t need it, Tax Breaks for Corporations who already pay little taxes,Favoritism for certain countries policies,loop holes on tough regulations, keeping incentives to offshore jobs, And a lovely politician standing up and saying such and such loop hole is okay. Just like the customer protect not including car dealers(not sure about anyone else but these guys make Some on Wall street look like saints for what i seen, heard, read and people i know who work at dealerships)

  • Ellen Dibble

    Obama’s 2008 campaign now e-mails as “Organizing for America,” and comes under various names, including his, and last time — I think as to add your name on my list of those supporting clean energy — he let on that “they” say there is not “public support” for this or that legislation. “They” must be either his advisors, his cabinet, or most likely the lobbyists. “They” would do their best to see to it (through advertising, influence peddling among the media etc.) that the public does indeed reflect the positions of the lobbyists.
    Obama on father’s day was speaking about the hole left by not having a present father, and on LGBT-month celebration about how no kid should be made to feel alone. And I am thinking his gorgeous young mom might surface in his dreams, but when the lobbyists tell him “his” constituency, us, is not for clean energy or whatever it is, he must feel a bit lonely. (Do I really know my people; do I misremember, misunderestimate them…) Of course leadership would mean getting us all BEHIND him, not chasing after us.
    Brett, I think Obama will start to blow that little gizmo you can buy in the mail order catalogue that is so high pitched only the dogs (lobbyists) can hear it, and the dogs immediately stop barking and skulk away. (“Give one to your mailman today.”) Then the pied piper of Washington can start to lead us where he wants. (What have I said…)

  • Michael

    I bet the first stop for the Oil Giants is Joe Barton’s office, than Barney Franks office for finance,

    We see this pattern time and time again where people get to cozy with the ones there supposed to be watching and almost always in the end turns out to be a bad thing(not to mention corrupt).Where the good of the selective few out-ways the good of the whole. This is also being done in the news with reporters being to close to Lobbyist and the Military. I don’t even have to watch a IPhone,IPOD.IPAD ads, cause NPR gives free advertisement, even devoting shows to them.

    Whats funny is the same shill lobbyist who are bribing(opps i mean contributing to there ah campaigns) are the same people NPR and Many News organizations invited as guest to give there expert opinions as if there no conflict of interest(Current guest included).

  • Michael

    “Lobbyists ARE on the loose in Washington! Who in the hell let them out??? And why have they not been put back in their cages?”

    To help us understand Onpoint invited Nicholas Allard,
    who chairs the lobbying for political and election laws practices and served on the staffs of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Senator Edward Kennedy

    I think there your answer.

  • Brett

    It’s not so much that the lobbyists have been let out of their cages, it’s that they have been taken off of their leashes!

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Lawmakers need to learn to just say no. If Congress couldn’t be bought lobbyists would have no work.

    They claim it’s the cost of modern campaigns (among other things) but not one of them has the balls to attempt to win without this money.

    I wish there were a web site that listed everyone in Congress and how much money they’ve taken from which sources and how they’ve voted on things. No doubt there is and someone here will post a link.

    The problem is, even with that direct connection, many Americans wouldn’t change their votes. The problem isn’t just Congress being bought by lobbyists, it’s enough of us giving a damn to do something about it.

  • Gary

    The country is being bled dry by the infestation of fiscal parasites…euphemistically labeled lobbyists.

    Don’t expect the corporate plutocracy in DC to make a vote to stop the ruinous plundering of America until the country and the economy collapses under the burden of theft and corruption.

    Could the history of Rome be wrong? Yes?!… It must be!… What was I thinking?… Concentrate – Concentrate – Concentrate…. The media tells me so… Distract me…Fear be gone… More bread and circus…. Is it time to eat?… Is Lady Gaga wearing a new hat!

    All is well.

  • Steve V

    I seriously doubt anything will change in the near future. While I’m sure there’s some good leadership out there, the odds are stacked against them. They won’t get the coverage they need to present their message and even if they did the public is not ready to here the word “sacrifice”. The majority of our citizens
    want what they have (or want it back) and change is what they carry in their pocket to buy gum.
    The dream of a better life for every generation dies hard. The big question, and fear, is how far will our lifestyles fall and what will it look like in the future.

  • jeffe

    Speaking of lobbyist Jack Abramoff is now out of prison and working in a Kosher pizzeria making $7.50 a hour.


    Sometimes justice does prevail.

  • William

    A good lobbist is one that works for you, whereas, a bad lobbist is one that works against you. The only reasonable solution would be to downsize the size of the Federal Government to a much more limited role in our lives.

  • JP

    I think it is time that congress meets over the web and the congressmen are required to be in their office in their respective districts for most of the year.

    If this was done, it would bring our representatives closer to those they represent and it would drastically limit lobbyists since they would have to travel mufti state rather than across the hall.

  • Michael
  • Ellen Dibble

    Steve V, Richard, yep, the lobbyists are “buying” us as well as Congress. They buy the media (by ads and by insinuating news, distractions — bread and circuses — as well their idea of future), and the persuade us the way they persuade Congress, probably at somewhat greater cost.
    Maybe we should have more talk about what the future can look like WITHOUT petroleum money and profits fueling our “prosperity”, WITHOUT imperial (military) designs, I could go on. Then we wouldn’t be afraid of change; we would come to realize we’re afraid of staying the same. Not just the debt but decay (call it that; scientists will predict but we need a Tolstoy to explain). The lobbyists don’t seem to have the vision. Nor the politicians. What about the Sierra Club?
    The lobbyists that need broad expansive vision to “sell” to all of us are not up to it. We need a voice like Martin Luther King to say I will not get to the mountaintop — i mean I will not get to the Promised Land, but I can describe it, and we will get there. Or a Moses.

  • Michael

    Total Lobbying Spending
    1998 $1,439,497,439 $1.44 Billion
    1999 $1,436,671,347 $1.44 Billion
    2000 $1,559,441,252 $1.56 Billion
    2001 $1,639,631,358 $1.64 Billion
    2002 $1,817,507,362 $1.82 Billion
    2003 $2,039,422,243 $2.04 Billion
    2004 $2,168,278,658 $2.17 Billion
    2005 $2,431,754,082 $2.43 Billion
    2006 $2,617,770,164 $2.62 Billion
    2007 $2,852,223,915 $2.85 Billion
    2008 $3,296,738,069 $3.30 Billion
    2009 $3,488,482,217 $3.49 Billion
    2010 $919,183,143 $0.92 Billion
    Number of Lobbyists*
    1998 $10,404 10,404
    1999 $12,945 12,945
    2000 $12,484 12,484
    2001 $11,767 11,767
    2002 $12,072 12,072
    2003 $12,877 12,877
    2004 $13,105 13,105
    2005 $14,001 14,001
    2006 $14,451 14,451
    2007 $14,799 14,799
    2008 $14,243 14,243
    2009 $13,746 13,746
    2010 $11,116 11,116


  • JP

    The federal government took a great deal of power away from the states in the last 100 years. Our country was founded on a weak federal government with limited powers and stronger state governments with power only limited by the powers given to the federal government. Everything else is state and local.

    It is time for States to take back the power that the Constitution gives them.

  • Steve V

    William talks about downsizing the Federal Government to a much more limited role in our lives. That sounds like a reasonable idea to me; however, the devil is in the details. What would that look like? Who would decide the role of government? The Republicans? The Democrats? But we can’t even get ourselves out of a war in Afganistan that the majority of Americans oppose. And if we can’t do that (stop a war that’s killing thousands of our troops and costing billions)what chance to we have of making substantial changes in the structure of our government. It appears our government has become more of a “them” than “us”.

  • Michael

    Car Dealers May Escape Scrutiny Of Consumer Loans


    One of the stories go on to say i made came in to buy a car at 250 and sign a bunch of paper work than turns out the dealership changed a few things at the end of signing without his knowledge and his payment went to 425 adding things that were not true.

    I had a dealer try the same thing to me last year where i filled out the paper work and the final stuff twice and he called me in a few days later cause he got a better interest rate for me and all i needed to do was come in and sign real quick, He also ask for the previous papers so he could destroy them, he kept pointing to the lower interest rate but failed to mention the 5/6k he added for all sorts on insurances, I called him on it,and at first he said there was nothing to do about it till i told him off and started to leave than he got rid of it.

    Turns out a collage buddy of mind worked at the dealership and i told him about this, he said it happens all the time and people are too trusting and often by the time they realize what there did it’s to late, He even told me how he made a cool 2k off of a older lady cause they lied about the value of her trade in.

  • JP

    Steve V,

    The Constitution should decide the role of government! Anything specifically mentioned in the Constitution or constructional amendments stays and the rest can be cut if our politicians can come to a conclusion. Before President Wilson, the supreme court often struck down laws that were unconstitutional. Since that time the supreme court has ignored their obligation to limit federal power.

    A recent study shows that a majority of Americans think the Federal government is a threat to their freedom.

  • JP

    Republicans opened Pandora’s Box when they founded K-Street.

    Under Republican rule of Congress, from 1994 to 2006, the number of lobbyists in Washington exploded from less than 3000, to 15,000.

    Since Dems took over Congress in 2006, the number of lobbyists has fallen back down to around 11,000 today… still far too many as a result of the Republican’s K-Street model, but an improvement.

    Lobbyists claim they have info and expertise legislators need in order to make informed decisions affecting different sectors of business and industry

    … if so, then the free, much needed information and expertise should be enough to ensure access, and money shouldn’t be required to “buy access.”

    Instead, money is of course the goal of legislators… information and expertise are secondary at best.

    Replace the conservatives corporate puppets in the Supreme Court, and enact meaningful campaign finance reform!!!!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Michael, I’m wondering if campaigns were run differently before 1994. Is this a post-Cold War “benefit”? Or a Democratic creation? (We had Clinton and a Democrat legislature till right that point, I believe.)
    I’m thinking where I live we’ve had the same Congressman, basically unopposed straight through from 1994, something like that. So he has never really had to “run,” so maybe that is not a bad plan. Let a district find somebody who can run unopposed and keep him. Hang onto him or her for dear life.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I meant JP in my last post. But Michael thanks for the link to the World Financial News, 42 Congressmen site.
    JP, we can’t limit lobbyists; how can we limit federal government? If there are do-it-yourself terrorists non only in Af-Pak but now here in the USA, I suspect we’ll have more and more of a police state, so the idea that the government gets more intrusive in order to protect us will probably come true. Sometimes a police state turns into something far worse. I’m not sure what William means by “most Americans” want to shrink government. Probably of 10 Americans who say that, EACH one means something different.

  • JP

    The recent drop in lobbyists could be accounted for by the Obama administration’s hiring of lobbyists even though he promised not to during his campaign. But I guess what does it matter when you have broken so many promises already. Repeal don’t ask don’t tell, Military out of Iraq, Most transparent administration in history, no closed door back room policy meetings, all legislative meetings aired on CSPAN….

  • Michael

    Ellen ,

    “Michael, I’m wondering if campaigns were run differently before 1994. Is this a post-Cold War “benefit”? Or a Democratic creation? ”

    could possible be, amazing enough the amount of lobbyist have went down the last few years. both lobbying amounts and lobbyist, could this be because there is now more dem’s in the house and senate and white house? you should look up the money he gets and see if there has been any spikes or the money he receives each year is on average the same.

  • Ellen Dibble

    You mean Obama hired lobbyists OUT FROM UNDER Congress? Peeled them off of K Street and brought them to the White House? You think that’s why there are fewer lobbyists? Because they have become invisible?

  • PW

    One man’s lobby is another man’s…

    Please, the only chance you have of getting my AARP card (thank you AARP lobbyists!) is out of my cold dead hands.

  • Ellen Dibble

    LOL, PW. I managed to renew my AARP membership three times in as many months last fall, a true sign of my pending seniority. But I don’t mind. They deserve it.

  • JP

    to answer your question about how differently campaigns were run before 1994 and the advent of the Republican’s K-Street model, see how campaign spending has grown since 1994.

  • Rich

    Politicians should have to wear a jump suit like a NASCAR driver instead of a business suit. On the jump suit would be patches with names of their largest contributors. The bigger the contribution, the bigger the patch. At least we would know who owns each politician.

  • JP

    It’s not hard to say who benefits most by lobbyists!!!!

    Wealthy, moneyed interests benefit most!

  • JP
  • JP

    Rasmussen are TOTALLY pointless, Republican hacks!!!

    No one with any sense whatever would buy into a Rasmussen poll!!

    Try again!

  • Jim

    Lobbyists are a polite term for bribery. therefore, if people think we are living in a democracy, perhaps Americans are disingenuous to themselves.

  • JP

    If Rasmussen says 52% trust govenrment today as NOT A THREAT TO INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, then you can be guaranteed the number is more like 70% DO trust government.

  • JP

    I want to know who writes legislation and who pays them to write it! It should be included on every bill.

    It would help the public know what to think of a energy bill if it was solely written by BP. Or a trade bill written by a member of the Canadian government.

  • Josh G.

    Agree with JP. How dare this guest say that it’s “hard to say who benefits most from lobbyists.” Not all lobbying is bad, and he makes this point, but doesn’t seek to distinguish between the moneyed lobbyists vested in corporate interest and those lobbying for non-profits, the environment, etc.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Don’t know much about Rasmussen, but the sample was only a couple thousand, and the questions posed would have floored me, and are so open to interpretation. Typical poll usable for whatever purpose you choose? Do you want the government to favor individual rights or economic growth? Well, I think the lobbyists are plugging for economic growth of their particular bosses, writing bills to favor their particular industry. So I would want the government to stop serving the bribesters until they know better. As to individual rights, that is all polluted by religious issues that again have lobbies.
    As to auto dealers — I have been fleeced at all levels. The only answer is to buy no cars, in my view.

  • JP

    JP, why are you impersonating me?

    Get your own handle.

  • JP

    Go back to using John P, with your little picture.

    I’ve been posting here for well over a year as JP… you only showed up a couple of weeks ago.

  • Ellen Dibble

    When I bring an issue to the attention of a politician, whether state or federal, if my issue impresses them as valid, they tell me to organize a lobby, and then get back to them.
    People who have the time and energy and so on to create an organization and hire a lobbyist are — are — are not me.
    AARP, the consumer protection lobbies, so on and so forth, represent often very well, easily recognizable positions. You can almost predict their direction.
    Or there are lobbyists for moneyed interests — insurance industry, oil industry…
    Then there are interests that have not yet got a foothold — and the entrenched lobbyists are working hard not to let that foothold happen.

  • http://none Chet S

    Seems as though our government’s dysfunction is largely due to special interest groups buying legislators via the lobbyists. Why isn’t there some kind of report (maybe there is already) made public to show voters in this country exactly how much money each legislator received and from where. I think it would by an eye opening experience to see just how much money these congressmen and women take in from various special interests. I think they also might be a little less willing to accept financial support if they know that it is going to be made public.

  • Will Turano

    I’m incredibly concerned that finance reform laws have made it essentially impossible to *legally* lobby my elected officials without huge teams of lawyers, limiting it to only very large companies. The bar for being a “lobbyist” is scarily low in some states, $250 in expenses in Massachusetts, the paperwork for doing it “right” is nearly impossible, and the penalty for doing it wrong is absurdly high. (up to 5 years in jail)


  • John

    I love when apologists claim that the system worked years after ongoing crime has finally been exposed and well after the damage has occurred.

  • John

    little folks?

  • John

    I agree that lobbyists are experts who are help citizens petition their government but the system needs to be reformed. Corporations should not be citizens. Money should not equal speech. End the revolving door between legislative and regulatory staffs and corporations.

  • Ellen Dibble

    An example of an issue without a foothold. I got Multiple Chemical Sensitivities after working in a “sick building” (airtight, ducts mis-connected) built after Jimmy Carter’s dicta on using less energy. Well, the medical approaches to this are ambivalent. The EPA was no help. I got a gas mask and got disabling headaches from that as well. So I ask, should people with susceptibility to fumes (asthma, allergies, lung function, eye problems, sore throats, light-headedness, exhaustion) — should they be visiting the gulf? Oh, Mr. President?
    Lots of no one answering my question. Are there fumes? Are people being evacuated.
    BUT last night the NewsHour did a pretty good piece gingerly approaching this, how BP is trying to squelch the reporting, not much medical prospective, just a photo of a hospital front-sign, how people have been coming. Thanks NewsHour.
    Where is the lobby? We are way too disabled and poor to help.

  • Dave Olnhausen

    By the way, Newsweek was put up for sale by The Washington Post Company. It’s not “going out of business”.

  • Hugh Giblin

    The only answer to the flood of money influencing politics is public financing with no money going to
    legislators. Lobbyists can make their case on the merits not the money.

  • Andy B

    I’m listening and I’m appalled by what I’m hearing. You’re allowing your guests to make a false assertion right up front which invalidates the rest of the conversation. Specically, the assertion that a Lobbyist and a Consultant are the same thing. WRONG.

    A consultant is assumed to be an expert, but neutral on a subject. A lobbyist will put the interests of their industry/client first. When it comes to writing legislation, that is HUGE difference!

    Let’s look at the “sewer expert” example used by Mr. Singer: A “sewer consultant” will come back to you with a solution based on your priorities, budget and desires. On the other hand, the “sewer lobbyist” will come back to you with a solution based on the interests of the “sewer lobby” which may or may not be the best solution for anyone but his lobby.

    That’s a HUGE difference, and it’s at the heart of the whole problem! Hiring consultants to help draft legislation is a good and wise thing. Allowing lobbyists to draft legislation is as close to letting foxes design hen-houses as you could possibly get!

    I’m saddened that Mr. Singer is misrepresenting things so badly. I can only assume that he is trying to protect some interest of his (such as friendships in the lobbying community?) at the expense of educating the greater public.

    Gee, sounds like a lobbyist!

  • PW

    The NASCAR jumpsuit idea has been doing the rounds — kind of a ha-ha. Or not so ha-ha. The truth is it’s not that funny and no more ridiculous than the current behaviors and attitudes of our congressional reps.

    Really! The money and who’s behind it, not the lobbying, is the problem. Trying to bring an issue to the attention of your rep and doing so in groups visiting his office is a good thing. Buying the right to design whole sections of legislation is another matter altogether.

    Along with all this we need to take seriously the increasing political weight of corporations — on the Hill and in our judicial system. We have to ensure that registered, individual voters have greater influence over elections and legislative decisions than any other entity.

  • JP

    It may take a generation or so, but the conservative Corporate puppets in the Supreme Court who worship business uber alles will be replaced, and then our country can return to sanity.

    Corporations, which can live forever, will no longer be granted the rights and status of mortal humans, and real campaign finance reform can again be pursued by citizens who believe America can be something better.

  • JohnO

    The congressmen are full of fleas for lying down with dogs. Congressmen prostitute themselves. Take the money and ALL favors out of lobbying. Additionally, increase term lengths of congressmen, but limit them to one term. Furthermore, don’t allow anyone in gov’t to lobby or join a lobby firm for 8 years after their term of service.

    Nicholas Allard is one of the slick talkers that twist the issues to keep the money flowing into lobbying firms.

  • Ellen Dibble

    To be fair to the White House, when I e-mailed the White House website, what about fumes? Are arrangements being made to help people relocate?
    When I did that, they sent me a specific thank you note. And right away, the president stopped advocating people going to the Gulf while the oil was still offshore. (He does have a daughter with allergies.)
    I’m not at all sure there is a direct cause and effect, but I noticed. Oh, I noticed.

  • adrian

    Jean, I am again disappointed in the shallowness of this discussion on Lobbyist in Washington. Should we not start this discussion with asking the question: Why do so many people feel that they have to spend millions of dollars on politicians? The answer is the same as this famous robber gave when asked why he robbed banks. “That is where the money is.”
    The only legitimate function of my government is to protect my Inalienable Rights to my life, my liberty and my money. However, now the law, instead of being an instrument of justice, has been turned into an instrument of plunder.
    Everything is now up for grabs and owned by the government; and people lobby either to use the political process to steal or to protect themselves from being robbed. Our politicians are now nothing more than very successful mud farmers.

  • Jon Wallace

    When speaker A makes a charge and finishes his comments, Jill Clayson does not ask speaker B to respond but changes the subject with a different question.

    The defender of lobbyists in this program often responds to charges against lobbyists by referring to his opponent personally, as in “he is both skeptical and cynical, quite a jump.” Right-wing speakers so often name-call and deal with opponents personally rather than address the issues.

  • John

    Jane isn’t the best with follow-up questions.

  • Rick

    The deliberate confusion of the difference between lobbying and advising is nauseating. Lobbyists are there to persuade, not inform. Advertising firms also do this when they call their ads “educating the consumer”.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The caller who says the issue is whether the expertise should be paid by private groups/industries or taxpayers is right on point. I think originally the staffs of senators and congresspeople were intended to include experts, or at least those (like the producers of this show?) who could contact the various experts with various perspectives and make sense of it.
    I believe I have read over time that this or that senator had the staff with the best expertise in this or that field, probably according to committee assignments, but legacy staff that could be forwarded to another elected official in case of being voted out of office.
    But if we want “Smaller Government” I suppose these on-staff experts would be the first to go? Because we want “private” enterprise to have as loud a voice as possible?

  • Mark S.

    I have long believed and often said that there are two locales in the U.S. where prostitution is entirely legal: certain parts of Nevada and the District of Columbia. I don’t know how many prostitutes there are in Nevada, but I know that there are at least 535 in D.C., counting both Houses. Given the neutering of so much important regulation over the years at the behest of cash-fisted “Johns” (a.k.a. lobbyists), I see no reason to change or moderate my opinion.

  • Peter

    Income gap … you bet, when the top 10% now rake in about 80% of earnings. Wall Street created this “downsizing” of the American Dream (for most of us) when it realized it could find cheaper labor offshore and lobbied intensively for the supposed benefits of Globalization. Everyone knew it was total baloney in 1992, but money talks (it just didn’t take as much, back then).

    Now you have callers who say the answer to our problems (like fraudulent bond ratings?) is moral rectitude. Well, DUUUHHH! This is the solution of the Religious Right … less gummint, more Jesus. Bank foreclosing on your mortgage? Pray harder (God will provide).

    Apologies to any clear-headed theists.


    Where do lobbyists hang out all the time?

  • Ellen Dibble

    K Street. But they try to be both omnipresent (to be effective) and invisible (to avoid people like you maybe).
    Ooh, I’m getting theological. Omnipotent and transcendent, that’s them.

  • bob fera

    I would propose two new requirements: firstly, require all meetings between legislators and lobbyists to be telecast on a new C-SPAN channel. Any outside meetings would result in jail time. Secondly, a legislator could not later become a lobbyist, period.


    Eminem has a song about Washington DC or should I say Politicians/Lobbyists. Mosh is the name of the song.

  • Emily Corwith

    So sickening I had to stop listening …

  • david

    I listened to a program on NPR before Onpoint, they were talking about Car dealers being exempted from the reform bill. They also stated that the car loans were being bundled in the same fashion as the home loan junk we just went through. I hope I heard wrong, if true, we are headed into another disaster.
    Nothing will be done to curb lobbyist, most politicians are lawyers and most are millionaires, some 237 of them.
    There is money to be made and power to have in Washington.

  • Onni

    I would like to see a program on how lobbyists influence foreign policy – whether it’s oil in the Middle East, minerals in Afghanistan, and going way back, for example,what did Kennecot copper have to do with inflicting General Pinochet on the people of Chile – or – how have other North American investors help support ruthless Latin American politicians who couldn’t care less about the poor majority of citizens.

  • Bush’s fault

    As expected, the usual number today of whiners who made poor education and career decisions.

    Look; you can’t take money out of politics because politics IS money. Obama was elected based on his promise to take money from the rich to buy “healthcare” for the poor. The core issue in our political debate is how we’re going to fund everything….i.e…who pays the….money.

  • Dan

    I would really like some kind of citation about the Fourteenth Amendment giving personhood to corporations.

    He might mean the due process clause, but if that’s some kind of sinister plot, evidence for that would be needed as well.

  • Dennis

    Lobbiests for positions I oppose should be illegal!

  • Marc

    I agree with Emily – I couldn’t listen anymore. Nick Allard, the lobbyist, managed to balance sanctimony with such practiced earnestness that it was like hearing a top lawyer talking about tort reform. Clearly, we need many more lobbyists and lawyers just to help the poor and disadvantaged.

    What’s sad is that there’s so little we can do about it. Would NPR listeners vote Barney Frank out of office because he was one of the best friends of lobbyists (and PAC money)? I doubt it because he brings home the bacon and the alternative might be a dreaded republican. Would we expect our current legislators to change the laws that keep them in office? We have become such saps as we attack the other side while so many on both sides are dirty.

    And by the way, can Jill Clayson listen a bit to the guests answers instead of motoring through questions. One guest referred to a study that essentially showed Congress was benefitting from insider stock information. Wasn’t this worth even one follow up question?

  • Alex

    The First Amendement guarantees the right to petition. So I would allow the lobbying in the following form: a lobbyist may prepare a professional looking informative petition for his/her client and send it by mail addressed to the appropriate governmental body. That’s it. No access to politicians and no jets, dinners, fundraisers or anything like that.

  • Matthew Simpson

    Congratulations for having Tom Ferguson on. I’m heartened that WBUR is getting more assertive about the anti-democratic influence of money on American politics. “On Point” is one of the only WBUR shows where this issue comes up, usually through listener comments. Ashbrook seems to attract economically sophisticated discourse. Having Ferguson on gives the issue even more emphasis.

  • Ed in WA State

    I heard about this site from the Thom Hartmann Show.
    This is personally exciting for me. I thought most of the radio in this country was far right… obviously, I was wrong.
    The problem of lobbying abuse is complicated because of the greed and timid of the various influential committee heads and members of congress who desperately need more and more money to pay for their election campaigns.
    Get the money out of politics by publicly posting every penny earned, given or pledged to any politician, for any reason, from local city council to President of the United States.

  • anthony

    In a democratic society, lobbying is not needed. The people will make the decisions that they believe appropriate. Lobbying is a tool for powerful organizations, or you could say a weapon in a war; give the power back to the people.

    Lobbying appears to me a direct avenue for corporate control over our society.

  • Gail

    The fall of Rome. Hmm, was it lobbyists?

    Corporate interests and their money with financial campaign political donations are in the process of bringing down the United States (debts, deficits, economic meltdown, oil spills, corruption, etc.).

    Are American voters’ pitchforks and torches going to vote incumbents out this November and again in 2012? If not, we certainly will have another financial/economic crisis and more.

    Amending the U.S. Constitution to state that person is defined as a natural person is a beginning to eliminating corporations the ability to give money towards political campaigns. If you are interested in working towards change, there is a growing movement towards doing just that (MoveOn.org, Change Congress, etc.)

  • S. R. Snook

    Dear Mr. Ashbrook:

    I thought you might be interested in the following musings. You may contact me by telephone at (805) 483-5146, although it is most likely a FAX machine will answer. However, I am more likely to be near the phone and able to answer if you should call after about 10 pm. If you do so and get the FAX, please try again in about five minutes, and again five minutes later. [You may have caught me answering a call of nature, who, when she calls, does not like to be put on hold.]

    I have written a couple of tax proposals, such as a tax at a 100% rate on the expenditures for lobbying (See “Three New Taxes”, below.), and also a 100% tax on “speculative gains,” which are often called “capital gains,” on the basis that the owner does nothing to increase the value of an asset, but simply holds it and benefits from it while societal pressures cause its price to increase, so it is society which should have the benefits of any and all such profits. However, there would be two exceptions: When a property, such as newly developed real estate, or an initial issue, such as that to a venture capitalist, of a stock, which has not yet been available for purchase by the general public, is sold [for the very first time] by its original owner(s). These exceptions would encourage investment in new construction projects, and venture capital financing of new businesses. Of course, it would also have the interesting side effect of making inflation quite undesirable!

    Above is one of three elements of a tax code I came with, which I fitted [in regular size type] on the “back of a postcard,” the entire code, not just the return to be filed, as is so often the ultimate form promised by legislators. I shall expound upon this later if you would be interested.

    Back in 1979[! ], I wrote and had printed a petition to tie the salaries of legislators and top government officials, including President and judges, to inflation—INVERSELY, so a 5% increase in the cost of living would result in a reduction of 5% in salaries of the highest paid government officials and elected persons. And it would be cumulative! And better than term limits!


    I would like to propose three new taxes, the revenues of which would fund “public” campaign financing:

    1. I believe there should be a tax of at least 100% on compensated lobbying expenditures.

    Compensated lobbying would include any expenditure made by one party to induce or encourage a second party to advance the agenda, in the widest possible interpretation of the words, of the first party with any government agency or employee. It would include, for example, hiring a bus to transport people to a rally or demonstration, or refreshments provided to people invited to a meeting to “discuss” some governmental function, which could reasonably be expected to result in some of the attendees intervening on behalf of the party providing the refreshments, and the costs of hiring the meeting hall, etc. It would include the costs of printing up and mailing “petitions” or letters to be forwarded to government, or suggesting one should write such a letter, and any costs associated with obtaining signatures for such petitions or letters. It would include the costs associated with phone banks and other efforts to induce others to advance the cause of the first party. Advertising, such as “Harold and Louise,” or more direct messages, would be so taxed as well. (We might even be able to tax the pronouncements of the Rush Limbaughs, and Glenn Becks. [Not likely.])

    About the only thing that would not be so taxed would be the cost of a stamp for a personal letter to a governmental representative, agency, or employee, or the cost of a personal call or telegram addressing some direct concern of the sender. In other words, the individual actually approaching the employee, agency, or representative, would not be taxed on his expenditures, rather only the expenditures aimed at getting him to do so to advance the agenda of another person or entity, even if the individual shares the concerns of the party spending the money. Taxed expenditures would also include attorneys’ fees unless they arose directly as a result of the drafting and/or negotiation of an actual contract, but not excepting the jockeying for a contract, or arose in an action in a court, or a situation which could reasonably be expected to lead to an action in a court; this provision is to be very narrowly interpreted and very strictly enforced! So let the Supreme Court allow corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals to “speak” as much as they want, [I really think that organizations in no way approach human status, so they are not entitled to any of the rights guaranteed individuals, or any privileges or powers which are not specifically granted under the legislation which creates the corporation or organization. Congress could simply redefine the concept of incorporation and so restrict organizations in the new authorizing language.], but tax them heavily should they choose to spend their monies in such fashion. This tax would apply equally to individuals as well as organizations, so it is non-discriminatory.

    The entity making the expenditure would be responsible for paying the tax, as a purchaser is responsible for paying a sales tax, but, if the spender fails to pay the tax, it will be levied upon the person or entity doing the lobbying. This would mean that a lobbyist would be working for nothing if his client failed to pay the tax. The tax would be collected by the recipient of the monies at the time of the expenditure, again just like a sales tax.

    This tax would at least double the costs of hiring lobbyists and should also include lobbying expenditures by state and local governments, since they are competing for a portion of the general funds paid by all Federal taxpayers. Thus it may actually lead to a decrease in Federal government spending. And if it doesn’t significantly reduce the influence of lobbyists, it can always be raised, perhaps to 500 to 1000%, although lobbyists wouldn’t much like it. But the man in the street would absolutely love it!

    2. The second tax would be assessed at the same 100% rate and would apply to broadcast political advertisements of less than 300 seconds duration. The 300 second figure would just about insure that a candidate or interest group would actually say something which might help a citizen decide how to vote, rather than the negative sound bites which we have heard so often over the last few years. People would still be allowed to air negative ads, but 300 seconds of negativity would be extremely hard to sustain. Besides encouraging substantial communication in political advertising, this tax might also decrease the number of political ads in any election, something the normal voter would indeed cheer!

    3. The third new tax would also levy at a rate of 100% the expenditures or contributions of any individual, including unions and corporations, which exceeded the current limit on individual political contributions now set by Congress, whether the expenditure or contribution was intended to advance or impede any candidate or any issue to be voted upon in any legislative body or during any election of officials, from the first instance of a candidate declaring for any office, or the issue being introduced in some legislative body, including a committee working in conjunction with the legislative body or for the executive branch.

    And I have laid out another inflation-related proposal: That Cost-Of-Living-Adjustments for social security and government pensions be equitable, such that one calculates the total expected cost of a percentage COLA, as is done presently, reduces it by some reasonable percentage [say 20%] and then splits the remainder equally among all the recipients, so that each person receives exactly the same amount in dollars as the next fellow. Those at the top end of the scale would receive a lesser percentage, but they have less need of it, while those at the bottom, who could really use it, would receive a greater percentage. But it would be hard for the top-enders to complain very loudly, since everyone would receive exactly the same dollar increase!

Sep 18, 2014
Flickr/Steve Rhodes

After a summer of deadly clashes between Gaza and Israel, we talk to Jews on the left and right about the future of liberal Zionism. Some say it’s over.

Sep 18, 2014

Billionaires. We’ll look at the super super rich, and their global shaping of our world.

Sep 17, 2014
Bob Dylan and Victor Maymudes at "The Castle" in LA before the 1965 world tour. Lisa Law/The Archive Agency)

A new take on the life and music of Bob Dylan, from way inside the Dylan story. “Another Side of Bob Dylan.”

Sep 17, 2014
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson watches from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of a preseason NFL football game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (AP/Ann Heisenfelt)

The NFL’s Adrian Peterson and the emotional debate underway about how far is too far to go when it comes to disciplining children.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Talking Through The Issue Of Corporal Punishment For Kids
Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014

On Point dove into the debate over corporal punishment on Wednesday — as Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson faces charges in Texas after he allegedly hit his four-year-old son with a switch.

More »
1 Comment
Our Week In The Web: September 12, 2014
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

In which you had varied reactions to the prospect of a robotic spouse.

More »
Beverly Gooden on #WhyIStayed
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

Beverly Gooden — who originated the #WhyIStayed hashtag that has taken off across Twitter — joined us today for our discussion on domestic violence.

More »
1 Comment