This provides a fascinating view of the business of lobbying, at least for Abramoff's former firm:E-mails Show Abramoff Using Donations in Effort to Force GOP Help for Client
Regardless of all of the allegations of wrongdoing (on both sides of the aisle, by the way) I find the business of the business very
We all know that lobbyist have a major role in how our country decides what to do, but look at the strategies and the players:
First the lobbyists internally:
"The tribes that want this (not just ours) are the only guys who take care of the Rs," Abramoff deputy Todd Boulanger wrote in a June 19, 2002, e-mail to Abramoff and his lobbying team, using "Rs" as shorthand for Republicans.
"We're going to seriously reconsider our priorities in the current lists I'm drafting right now if our friends don't weigh in with some juice. If leadership isn't going to cash in a chit for (easily) our most important project, then they are out of luck from here on out," he wrote, referring to political donation lists.
They know they have power, but look at how this is worded to the internal team. This particular project - federal school funding for one of their clients - was one of their most important projects at the time, and it was in jeopardy. The lobbying firm was telling the lawmakers - this is important to our firm, and if you can't help us on this, we won't help you with our other clients and projects.
That's power. The validity of the lobbying effort and the importance of the legislation or funding didn't enter into it. The support was necessary for Abramoff's group to look good to a lucrative client, and they weren't hesitant about making that clear to lawmakers in an effort to influence them.
Abramoff's team turned to Congress, getting Michigan Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to persuade their party's leaders to request the money in a spending bill. Democrats controlled the Senate in 2002.
Abramoff then turned to Republicans, including Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, to overcome the administration's objections and secure $3 million specifically for the Saginaw when the GOP regained control of the Senate the next year.
No surprise that when the balance of power shifts, so does the focus of the lobbyists. As I said in this post
, whatever party is in power always seems to have corruption and ethics scandals. But think about it - why try to "influence" someone with little or no ability to help your agenda?
The plan had hit a snag in summer 2002 when a single GOP House appropriations staffer, Joel Kaplan, objected.
That's when the team got mad. They contacted the NRCC - the fundraising arm of the Republicans, to discuss strategy. Based on that they stepped up donations and published a list showing the donations made by their clients to Republican candidates. They enlisted DeLay to try to talk to the staffer. They called the White House to talk to the staffer.
Then the congressional leadership stepped in:
In early 2003, Kaplan's new boss, House subcommittee chairman Charles Taylor, R-N.C., ended any problems in the House when he signed onto the Saginaw money. Burns' office took up the fight in the Senate.It was basically all over except for the posturing (and the donating). No staffer can put up with that kind of pressure:
The two lawmakers wrote a letter in May 2003..."We hope our collective response has cleared up any unnecessary confusion."
unnecessary confusion is, of course, any opposition.
All of this is what lobbyists are hired to do - like it or not. People with influence can sell it. There isn't even anything technically wrong with that, although I'd like to think common sense and civic duty should override "influence". But then again, I'm an optimist.
My larger problem with the system is that groups that are not political insiders (like women, minorities, tribes, individuals...) have
to hire lobbyists to get anything done. That's where the money comes in. Money for Abramoff and his group, and money for lawmakers:
A month before the letter, Abramoff's firm threw Taylor a fundraiser on April 11, 2003, that scored thousands of dollars in donations for the lawmaker's campaign, including $2,000 from Abramoff and $1,000 from the Saginaw. The tribe donated $3,000 more to Taylor a month after the letter.
Burns, likewise, got fresh donations. Several weeks before the letter, Burns collected $1,000 from the Saginaw and $5,000 from another Abramoff tribe. The month after the letter, the Saginaw delivered $4,000 in donations to Burns.
This is what got everyone in trouble. The fact that it looks like money changed hands to influence legislation. It's actually sad that you have rules like that - Backroom handshakes, legal; Payment to handshaker, legal; Payment to handshakee, not legal.
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone just legislated in the best interests of those they represent and according to a moral code, a Credo
if you will, that stated a simple set of beliefs and guiding principles?
Wouldn't it be nice if we discussed the issues we disagreed on with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable solution rather than a mutually profitable one?
Wouldn't it be nice if government was of the people, by the people, for the people?
I think so.
Tags: Abramoff, lobbying, politics, bribery, scandal, e-mails, liberty, government, democrat, republican, Diverse and Contradictory, individualism