Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hypocrisy on connections to lobbyists

Let's face it - both parties have ties to lobbyists and rely on interest groups for information and support. But it only seems to be Republican connections that rouse the attention of the MSM. The New York Times had a hit piece on John Boehner's ties to lobbyists this weekend and the White House was quick to tout the article in Tweets.

Timothy Carney has been doing a yeoman's job writing about the Democrats' connections to lobbyists. Before we get our panties in a knot about Boehner, let's not forget how closely bound both the White House and the Congressional Democrats are to their preferred lobbyists. The White House is full of lobbyists. As Carney details, Obama has appointed at least 50 ex-lobbyists to senior jobs in his administration, including four in his cabinet. The man who ran his transition, John Podesta, co-founded a lobbying firm with his brother. The drug lobby was instrumental in supporting ObamaCare. And Obama aides like to go meet with lobbyists at coffee houses near the White House so they don't appear on the logs that Obama proudly makes public.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi has received almost twice as much money from lobbyists as John Boehner. And at least 18 House Democrats have outraised Boehner from lobbyists. And how about this tidbit?
Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid have pocketed more lobbyist cash in the past 18 months than Boehner has raised in the past 6 elections, combined?
Yet it is Boehner's ties that "seem especially deep" in the New York Times. What a coincidence that the NYT would come out with such an article just as the White House is striving to make Boehner their GOP bogeyman. And then Robert Gibbs sends out Twitter messages for people to read the article. How convenient it all is. Carney takes a different tact in investigating whose ties are truly close to lobbyists.
Yes, to Times reporter Eric Lipton, Boehner’s lobbyist ties seem especially deep. What if we tried to use facts and data, rather than the reporter’s impression, to measure Boehner’s lobbyist ties against those of other politicians.

Let’s start with campaign contributions. The Times writes:

[Lobbyists] have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns

Here’s what they mean: from 1999 until today, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Boehner has raised $299,490 from lobbyists.

For comparison, Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, and Chuck Schumer have each raised more money from lobbyists in this cycle alone.

This election cycle, Boehner is not even in the top 20 recipients of lobbyist cash. He’s raised less than $40,000 from lobbyists this cycle — compared to Nancy Pelosi’s $71,000 from lobbyists.

Sure, Boehner is too close to lobbyists, but the money trail says he isn’t closer than Nancy Pelosi. (Links and emphasis in the original)
But the whole point of the story is an exercise in guilt by association. I know that "lobbyist" holds a dirty taint in American politics. However, both parties are close to interest groups. That's how our political system works and has worked ever since the Founders griped about "factions." However, such connections are perfectly legal and constitutional. Remember that First Amendment right to petition? It includes organizations that have banded together because they have a particular interest in common and object to the way the government is dealing with them or wish the government to do something for them. Perhaps if the government didn't have its hands into every aspect of our lives, we wouldn't have so many groups that wanted to influence politicians. And, of course, the Democrats received more money recently because they are the ones in power. If the GOP is in power, they'll get more money. And the Democrats will complain about that as if they weren't getting the dough during their years in power. Let's just stop trying to pin a Scarlet L on anyone who gets money or associates with lobbyists. We might like all our representatives to be citizen legislators who never meet or receive money from anyone except the little old ladies in their home districts, but no one like that gets elected or ever has.