Friday, August 17, 2007

Lobbyist In Chief?

Fred Thompson campaigning in Iowa defends his tenure as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist (here). And he has a point. Lobbyists represent actual people. The inside workings of the political system would take these people years to learn. Lobbyists already know the ropes and can help these people get some traction on their issues. That’s admittedly a very solicitous view of the lobbying profession.

While Thompson has a point, Americans are going to ask themselves if they want a former lobbyist as president. My guess is that people that might not object to lobbying as a profession per se might balk at electing a lobbyist to be their president.


Democracy Lover said...

Some lobbyists represent actual people, but most lobbyists represent corporations who are out to shift their costs onto the public and otherwise feed at the public trough.

We already have an administration that appoints lobbyists to head regulatory agencies who have lobbied their entire careers against the specific government regulations they are supposed to enforce. Enough is enough.

y-intercept said...

DL, you always go ballistic when general negative statements about progressives. Yet you seem to love to attack groups that aren't PC.

I am so dishearten to see you using the same word-weapons on lobbyists that you disparage when used on progressives.

Most of the lobbyists I've met seem a bit like bloggers. They simply love the chance to work in the world of ideas.

For that matter I would venture that most lobbyists have the illusion that their work is progressing society.

I would agree with the assessment that the lobbying industry as a whole is a net negative. I wouldn't buy your moralistic statement that lobbyists are bad sell-out type people.

Reach, the reason I clicked on "post comment" was to note that the real question is how deep Thompson was into lobbying. You used the word "professional" simply to state that he had been paid.

Clearly, being a lobbyist was not the defining thing in Thomspon's life. I think you are correct that most people will just see it as an experience.

Democracy Lover said...

Word-weapons? I make a distinction between lobbyists who are working on behalf of freely associated groups of individual citizens and those who are working on behalf of corporations and associations of corporations.

The former have ever right under our Constitution to pressure legislators to respond to their constituents. The latter do not. They are acting on behalf of artificial entities authorized by governments which have no viable rights under our Constitution.

I would agree that one should not condemn Thompson simply because he has been a lobbyist. There are any number of other valid reasons to view him as a ridiculously inappropriate candidate for the Presidency.

Reach Upward said...

I don't know. I figure that anyone that works at something for a decade and earns over $1 million at it is pretty much a professional in that thing. Thus, I'd argue that Thompson was a professional lobbyist.

I'm not saying that being a lobbyist in an inherently bad thing. However, there are enough bad eggs that the entire profession carries a certain stigma that may influence how voters consider a candidate.

Democracy Lover said...

I agree that it will probably influence voter's decisions - probably not enough.

It seems to me rather obvious that the huge amounts of money required to run a campaign for the Presidency, or even for Congress, are the root of our politician's lack of responsiveness to the people. A politician who raises enough money to be considered a "serious" candidate has already indebted him/herself to special interests. One would think that American voters would figure this out and start voting for the underfunded contenders who actually might represent them if elected.

y-intercept said...

In The Dialectics, words are nothing more than weapons we use against each other.

One way to tell if a person is using words as weapons is if they permit a type of speach aimed at their enemies but reject it when aimed at friends.

I think you are correct that, like in the days of the King's court, lobbyist of modern Washington have far too much power and are way out of control.

Unfortunately, I don't think we will solve the problem by regulating lobbies. Small lobbies for good causes are worse at figuring out the ropes. The more ropes the worse things are.

We can't just eliminate lobbies.

People really need to be able to form groups to be able to act.

You have in your mind a separation between good and bad groups. I have similar thoughs, but my list of bad groups would probably differ from yours.

Even if our notions were the same, I don't think there is any formula that will allow us to distinguish the undesirable groups from the good groups.

The problem is that the undesirables are very good at changing the form and mimicking the outward appearance of good groups.

Democracy Lover said...

I agree that when citizens form groups (assemble) to petition the Congress for redress of their grievances, it is perfectly legal and Constitutional and should be applauded.

When artificial entities created by the state with no inherent Constitutional rights in and of themselves create groups to pressure the Congress to act in a way that will increase their profits, that should be illegal and certainly has no Constitutional basis.

Frank Staheli said...

Let me stir the pot a bit...

The fact that we have lobbyists who are not direct constituents of their federal legislators (i.e. don't live in their districts--the same thing could be said of states) is a clear indication that government has far exceeded the bounds of what government is supposed to do. Lobbyist firms lobby either because they know they can get fat at the federal trough, or because they want the money back for their clients that the federal government shouldn't have taken from them in the first place.

And I do hold the fact that Fred Thompson was a professional lobbyist against him.

Reach Upward said...

I agree with Frank. A smaller government would necessarily lead to less lobbying.