Lobbyists: The Fourth Branch of Government

We've Been Bamboozled, Big Time

We bought into the fantasy that by going to the polls on election day we were doing our patriotic duty.

We believed that by voting for this man or that woman we were sending someone to the State House or Capitol Hill who would champion our cause and fight the good fight.

We thought the Democratic Party or the Republican Party was our line of defense against the forces that challenge our great nation.

We were wrong. Great God Almighty, were we wrong.

The way the government works has nothing to do with what we learned in middle-school Civics. Nothing at all.

Lobbying for Fun and Profit

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, published at OpenSecrets.Org, total lobbying expenditures topped $3 Billion last year. And that figure has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Since 1999, the number of registered lobbyists has held relatively steady at about 13,000.

Who has more influence on government? -- The 200 million eligible US voters or the handful of lobbyists, each with an average $250 million to dole out?

NOTE: Figures are on this page are calculations by the Center for Responsive Politics based on data from the Senate Office of Public Records. Data for the most recent year was downloaded on January 25, 2010. *The number of unique, registered lobbyists who have actively lobbied.

The ABC's of Real Estate and Politics: Always Be Closing

Your campaign contribution to your favorite candidate is much appreciated but it comes with no strings and no real accountability. Your congressperson can cash your check and then do whatever he or she wants to do.

And if they start pushing legislation that runs counter to your best interests they can give you some gobbledy-gook about how it really is in your best interests and that by and by you'll come to understand the wisdom of what they're doing.

Good luck trying to play the lobbyist crowd that way.

The money (and energy) they put into the process is an investment. And the lobbyist is paid -- and paid well -- to achieve a high return on investment for the firms they represent.

A lobbyist is a salesperson whose livelihood depends on hitting sales targets. He or she is a hired gun motivated to produce results.

Have we forgotten what Alec Baldwin taught us?
(Language warning)

The Supremes: Stop! In the Name of Love!

None of this is helped by the recent US Supreme Court ruling that allows US corporations to fund US political campaigns with no limits on spending.

And despite what Justice Alito thinks, as long as the corporation is chartered in one of the fifty US states, it can wield power in our elections even if its senior management and board of directors sits in Venezuela, Moscow or Dubai.

But this curious High-Court ruling only adds fuel to the fire that has been raging for far longer than we've realized.

Schoolhouse Rock Revisited
So if everything you know about legislation, you learned from Schoolhouse Rock, you no longer have the whole story.

Add to the Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches a fourth branch of government, which may, indeed, come to be the most influential and powerful of them all.