View From Lodi, CA Pittsburgh, PA: More Lobbyists Means Less Democracy
August 22, 2008, 05:00 AM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF

Over the eight years that my column has appeared in the Lodi News-Sentinel, I've received bundles of mail.

Much of it has come in response to articles wherein I referred to myself as a Democrat.

Among the angry charges made against me were that I am a "tax and spend liberal,"  "a Teddy Kennedy-loving radical," and, regarding my numerous columns pointing out the folly of George W. Bush's Iraq War "an unpatriotic bum."

Efforts on my part to dissuade readers have been futile. I've pointed out that my affiliation with the Democratic Party is technical only. Although registered, I haven't voted for any Democrat—except myself in 2003 during the California special gubernatorial election—in twenty years.

And I have no more interest in paying higher taxes and having my hard-earned money wasted on failed government programs than you do.

Since nothing I wrote convinced skeptical readers, I have taken the ultimate step to gain the favor of the doubters.

While I was at the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles, I changed my party registration to Independent.

My gesture was a symbolic protest aimed at the useless leadership of the Republicans and Democrats and their completely revolting presidential candidates.

Apparently, I am one of millions. Over recent years, Independents have grown to nearly 35 percent of registered voters.

Interestingly, although I am a newly minted Independent, I plan to continue my well-established pattern of ignoring my party.

I'll not be voting for Ralph Nader, another relatively new Independent running for president. But I do support his call for a "Jeffersonian revolution" to lessen the influence of big money in Washington, DC

If there's a revolution going on, tell me please where to enlist. 

Washington, once just a sleepy southern town, is now the nation's big money capital.

According to the latest census data, five counties neighboring DC are among the top ten wealthiest in the country. They are Loudoun, Fairfax, Howard, Montgomery and Prince William.

The wealth is generated by the most threatening villain democracy could ever imagine: the lobbyist.

The number of registered lobbyists in Washington, whose salaries start at $300,000, has more than doubled since 2000. Insider estimates place the number at more than 40,000. In the meantime, lobbyist fees have increased by 100 percent.[Road to Riches Is Called K Street,  by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Washington Post, June 22, 2005]

Lobbying sadly has become an integral part of the American political system because politicians depend on corporate donations, kickbacks or supportive media exposure.

Not long ago, corporations figured out that the high lobbyist fees—ranging up to $50,000 a month retainers— could be profitably offset by the special interest earmark rewards Congress began making available. In other words, America is for sale. Sorry, you're interests are of no interest to either the legislators or the fat cats.

To keep the vicious cycle going, the most successful lobbyists are former Congressmen and Senators who, because of their personal relationships with their ex-colleagues, can grease the wheel.

According to Public Citizen's Congress Watch, nearly half of all lawmakers who return to the private sector when they leave Congress become lobbyists.

And for those who turn to a second career in influence peddling, their Congressional record isn't nearly as significant as their contacts.

Robert L. Livingston, the Louisiana Republican and former chairman of the U.S. House of Representative's Appropriations Committee is now president of his own thriving six-year-old lobbying firm, called one of the "most influential on K Street."

In 1998, Livingston was briefly House Speaker-elect until Hustler Magazine uncovered unsavory details about his extra-marital affair that forced him to confess and resign.

In fact, had Fred Thompson's timing been better and his campaign more energetically managed he could have been America's first lobbyist president.

In the 20 years leading up to his Senate election in 1996, Thompson lobbied on behalf of the Tennessee Savings and Loan Association, the deposed Haitian President John-Bertrand Aristide and the National Planning & Reproductive Health Association.

I wish I could tell you that as the money is exchanged between the fat cats and the pols your interests are addressed—or even that they are acknowledged.

But they aren't. Your only recourse is to use your vote wisely by withholding it from all of the major candidates.

Your vote is all you have left.  

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.