Are Lobbyists Influencing your Candidate?

By: Robert Barrington

This year is an election year, and voters are deciding on whom to vote into the White House, but are elected officials interested in what the voters want, or are they influenced by lobbyists?

Lobbying in the United States is a paid activity in which special interest groups hire well connected advocates to argue for self-centered legislation in places such as congress. Lobbying happens at every level of government, and Washington alone has over 9,000 active lobbyists, but the number of the most powerful lobbyists can be counted on your hands and are hired by extremely rich organizations that either profit from government contracts, or have helped shape legislation to benefit their businesses.

Since the government makes the rules, it is only natural that various organizations and businesses would want to have as much influence as they can when it comes to rulings and laws from politicians in their favor. A typical senate race can cost from half a million dollars up to ten million dollars, and lobbyists can channel millions of dollars from their clients’ donations to friendly politicians. The lobbyists outnumber the politicians, and many are made up of former congressmen, senators and staffers. They know the ins and outs of the political world and with their connections and knowledge, they wield tremendous power. Let’s face it, big money talks.The biggest overall spenders for lobbying are corporations, and big bankers and Wall Street. Lobbyists spent over $100 million in one year trying to gain favor from regulators and lawmakers while they were finalizing regulations on trading, credit card fees, and lending. Other lobbyists were spending over $1 million a day with 350 plus lobbyists hired by the GOP to kill health care reform. It is rumored that lobbyists influenced the House of Representatives to vote against the first version of the bailout legislation, and setting off a sudden collapse of the stock market; and only days later to have congress throw in more money.

Lobbying is big business, and successful lobbyists can make large fortunes. Gerald C. Cassidy, one of the first big lobbyists, is said to be worth over $100 million dollars, and owns one of the most powerful lobbyist firms. Cassidy’s firm started the use of congressional earmarks used to obtain grants for university clients, and Cassidy himself is on the board of Villanova and Boston University.

With the buying, selling and bartering of sweeteners, earmarks, votes and senatorial seats, it is no wonder that most elected officials who make big promises never have a chance to go through with them once in office.  With the huge power associated with lobbying, most of the budget is already earmarked, and decisions made by an elected official are actually made by a committee that is highly influenced by the corporations that hire the powerful lobbyists.  So, how much power do our elected officials really have, and are they more influenced by what we the voters want, or are they overwhelmingly influenced by the rich corporations that hire powerful lobbyists?

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