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Ask a Lobbyist: God is a Concept by Which We Measure Our Contributions

Every week, our Anonymous Lobbyist answers your questions about how laws get made and why they probably shouldn't. If you have a question about the dirty business of doing business in Washington, ask her.


This week: people of all races, creeds, and colors, working together to buy you your own congressman.

With Edwards and Obama not accepting donations from lobbyists, do you think they or whomever wins the presidency will make changes that'll make it tougher for you to go about your business? If so, is there any candidate in particular you're rooting for, if only out of job preservation?

Well, frankly, chaos is fabulous for the lobbying business (and political fundraising). The more people think their money/livelihoods/Social Security benefits/favored baby polar bears are at risk, the more they rush out to hire lobbyists/donate to politicians that they think will make all right again with the world. I mean, it's not like I work on contingency (though some lobbyists do)- my job is to balance appearing to work really hard with either failing to accomplish all my objectives or coming up with new goals that someone must pay me to achieve. Otherwise, I'm out of work and money. Not that I mind being unemployed, but I really mind being out of money.

So, sure, I donate politically to the establishment candidates to make sure my name appears on the right lists (with the exception of those people who aren't taking my money to make a point), but it's not because I care who wins as much as for appearance's sake. Really, I'm kinda rooting for Kucinich or Tancredo or fucking Ron Paul to at least score in a primary or something. I mean, who in DC or even the business community wouldn't have their panties in a bunch if the "mainstream" candidates split the votes of all the non-crazies in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and some crazy mouth-breather beat them (or came close), let alone won? I mean, hell, a Kucinich presidency? Business lobbyists could practically bathe in the money that would rush into D.C. to keep him from doing anything- as could every political fundraiser and their Congressional clients who weren't Kucinich-esque. Talk about income inequality- lobbyists and politicians would definitely get richer.

But, to answer the first part of your question, no, if only because lobbying regulations are determined by Congress, not the President. What Congress is going to want to have a President, regardless of party affiliation, dictate who they can/cannot talk to or take political contributions from?

Morally, what is the main difference between a lobbyist, who say works in a organization to make public high schools better, or get more money for foster kids than a lobbyist who is just a gun for hire -- besides the pay.

What in the world makes you think that the education industry lobbyists aren't making bank? The American Federation of Teachers spent more than $800K last year on in-house lobbying, and the National Education Association spent almost $1.6 million- and that's just the union spending, not including textbook publishers and charter schools and do-right groups and the rest of the education industrial complex. Those lobbyists ain't hanging out at Busboys and Poets and talking about how the man is keeping them down. The shitheads at the NRA only spend $1 million on their in-house people, and they've got a fucking jack-booted army. They're actually notorious for paying their people crappy. But both sides pay hired guns to help out.

And, as for morality, well, like everything else in Washington, it kinda depends on your politics, right? There are people lobbying on abortion who think the other side are completely immoral; some auto industry folk think some of the more crazy enviros won't be happy until Michigan is emptied of jobs, and the enviros think the car comps won't be happy until Chicago is the new east coast. If you go to work for a consulting firm specializing in health care lobbying, is that "better" than one that specializes in manufacturing issues - and do you still feel that way even if you're lobbying to get a new, expensive and worthwhile cancer drug accepted on the Medicare formulary for the benefit of a big pharmaceutical company?

Politics is its own religion in Washington, and I'm an atheist, so I just figure people work the issues they want to work and, since someone lobbies practically every side of an issue (except maybe the post office naming bills), I'm hard pressed to feel like anyone is missing out. Politicians don't vote for stuff that lobbyists tell them to vote for (though, it might be occasionally nice), they vote for what they think will get them re-elected, make them popular in their party or what their constituents won't notice/don't care about.

On the other hand, I don't care if you're Mormon or Baptist or Jewish or Muslim or whatever other religion, either. But, for some people, the only way to justify their own belief systems is to crap all over someone else's and call them immoral and say they're going to hell. Because, of course, there is Absolute Right and Absolute Wrong, and they are the former and everyone else is the latter. Luckily, I figure I'll know a lot of legitimately cool people in hell, so maybe the whole hellfire and brimstone thing won't be so bad if I've got good company.

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