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: who lobbies the lobbyists?
Do you lobbyists ever get lobbied? You know, "Ask not what a lobbyist can do for you, but rather what can you do for a lobbyist." What would be the things interested parties would lobby you for?
Well, I assume you aren't talking about my date last weekend, who was definitely lobbying hard for me to put out (sorry, dude, you woulda had better luck convincing Pelosi to give tax breaks to oil companies). And you're probably not talking about the more general lobbying that I get in the comments from time to time, either...
But, yes, lobbyists definitely get lobbied by other lobbyists on the big issues of the day/month/year, to try to minimize opposition or maximize support on an issue. It tends to be fairly low-key, unless you're company/organization has fallen off a really big wagon and has enough clout to kill or slow down something everyone else wants passed or to pass something everyone else wants killed- in which case, you may want to have the intern start your car for a while. But, yeah, lobbyists get asked to sign on to the lobbying world equivalent of Dear Colleague letters, to join coalitions, to make Hill visits with other lobbyists to show how important the issues are. And, some of that kind of lobbying could come from Hill staff (like, asking you to pressure other offices to sign onto Dear Colleagues or join caucuses or whatever) or from their bosses (and even more so if you can call hinting/asking for campaign contributions "lobbying"). This is really a world in which everyone is scratching everyone else's back (I'd call it a circle jerk, but I lack the requisite equipment to participate in one), so I scratch and get scratched like everyone else.
Before the national press started reporting on it, the K Street Project was an "open secret" in D.C. Can you give us another open secret of the goings on in the Capitol that the average American would be shocked to hear about?
How about... that the only thing about the "climate" in Washington that's changed since the Dems took over is who is physically sitting in the chairs, and not how they're behaving? I mean, for all that the Dems screamed about equal access and the rules shutting out their amendments and the way that committee chairs lorded everything over their junior minority colleagues and how they were going to change the way Washington worked, they've got some pretty brutal committee chairs who are dicks to their colleagues, they're shutting down amendments and playing the same games with voting times that their colleagues across the aisle. Which, whatever, if the average American didn't expect that, then they haven't really been paying attention (which, obviously, most people haven't).
Oh, and the Dems have their own K Street Project now, too. Big surprise.
Do you think there is a conflict of interest in allowing those whose profession it is to lobby legislators for contracts and legislation to also contribute and organize fundraisers on behalf of the very politicians who they lobby? Do you believe in some ways this system undermines our democracy?
Well, I have sorta a conflict of interest in answering the question. Because, on the one hand, I don't know that there really is a conflict of interest in it -- I mean, when it comes to campaign money, I think Members view us as low hanging fruit that they're entitled to pick and that because there are so many of us, they don't really give a crap about what most of us are selling legislatively (the super-senior best-buddy of so-and-so types are more the exceptions than the rule). Plus, if the lobbyists themselves weren't organizing fundraisers/bundling/donating, they'd just find a way to keep it close anyway. We are generally more interested in politics and who gets elected than the average American, and our livelihoods are as tied to making nice-nice with Members as their staffs, so it's sorta like anything else in life (condo boards, civic groups, etc.) -- those that like doing it/get something out of doing it are the ones who end up doing the grunt work, too.
On the other hand, I'm sick to fucking death of being expected to contribute and go to fundraisers and shit. Nothing secretly delighted me and some of my colleagues more than when Members were discussing making it illegal for lobbyists to contribute as part of the damn ethics bill (a provision, naturally, that caused many a heart palpitation on the Hill and was eventually taken out). So, if I say, "yes, it's undermining our Democracy, bwahahaha, suck it peons!" will you help get rid of it? Because that would make my life sooo much easier -- I could get back to drinking the top shelf liquor with other lobbyists at night at nice restaurants rather than drinking shitty Chardonnay at yet another fundraiser. Thanks!