One dollar, one vote? It’s time we put an end to Congressional lobbying.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Constitution defines a Congress in which the people are represented as individuals in the House of Representatives, and as states in the Senate. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that money gets to vote.  

It’s a free country. Other than campaign financing laws which limit contributions to political campaigns, there’s no stopping anyone or any organization from arguing its point of view in public. Companies do it all the time. It’s called “marketing.” Wealthier people and organizations still have an advantage, but at least it’s out there for all of us to see, judge for ourselves and, if necessary, do something about it.

Lobbying is far more insidious. The problem is access, direct and discreet access to the Congressmen and women, Senators and their staffs who make our laws and spend our money. It’s access we, as citizens, can’t afford and seldom get.

Why do our elected representatives pay attention? Why do they allow, even encourage such privileged access? Because it takes lots of money to get elected? Yes, but it’s not so much that the costs of getting elected have risen so dramatically, as it is that the money some candidates have been able to raise to buy their election has, and everyone else either keeps pace or loses.

The problem isn’t the money per se, it’s the influence it buys. Better, more extensive campaign financing reform will help, but we need to get to the heart of the matter, to deny lobbyists the access they crave. Without access, there’s no point in their spending their money to pervert the election process in favor of those candidates who may or may not end up supporting their objectives.

How do we do it? Lobbyists are already required by law to register. The next step is simply to make it against the law for them meet or otherwise communicate with our elected representatives or their staffs. Think of it as similar to the rules in our legal system which recognize the inappropriate nature of “ex parte” communications. From…

1. From or on one side only, with the other side absent or unrepresented.
2. From a one-sided or strongly biased point of view.

No question about it, I’m making it illegal to “lobby” in the conventional sense of the term. Lobbyists will just have to resort to using their considerable persuasive skills through the media along with the manufacturers of Cheetos and adjustable beds – as long as they talk issues, and not specific candidates. Enforcement will be a problem, but time and the electorate will out those officials who continue to behave badly in opposition to the letter and spirit of the law. Pretty soon, old school lobbyists won’t have anything to do, no lobbies they can hang around waiting to make their pitch, and that will be that.

Sure, it’s way easier said than done, mostly because the lobbyists themselves will be lobbying against this new legislation I’m recommending, and because the Congressmen/women and Senators they support will be very reluctant to lose the advantage their “ethical flexibility” allows them. Hard, yes, but worth it don’t you think, and high time we returned control over our government to the people, regardless of how much money they have.


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