This is the first post in my Politics: Time for a Change Series. In this article, we will discuss the ever-popular subject of Lobbying.
First of all, it is important to note that the right to petition is protected in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one’s government, without fear of punishment or reprisals. This is a very important part of a democratic government. Much of the framework set up within the U.S. Constitution was left with room for future interpretation for a very good reason. For some, this statement may bring up memories of the Necessary and Proper Clause (also known as the Elastic Clause) which states; ” The Congress shall have Power – To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer there of.” This is not what I speak of. In this context, I am speaking of the open-ended verbiage of the “right to petition” portion of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and how it has been adulterated more so than any other legal loophole in history. In fact, the right to petition statement itself is regularly used as a loophole to justify any type of lobbying.Therefore, special interests of any kind can continue to pressure the government at any level to the highest extent of their financial ability.
What is the harm in that? Let me just say it. All lobbying groups do not have the general good in mind. Some have a purely corporate profit potential in mind. Some are looking to change U.S. policy to their groups specific partisan beliefs. Some lobby for the banking industry, the pharmaceutical industry, oil companies, utilities, government contracting, etc. These groups secondary concern is to fight further regulation of their respective industries. Their first concern is to fight for tax breaks, and industry specific legislation that increases their ability to raise a profitable businesses bottom line year after year. They do not always do this with the greater good in mind.
I understand that all lobby groups are not of this nature. For example, there are very important lobby groups out there who lobby for human rights, health concerns, education,etc. Certainly, we can not do away with all lobby groups.
The real problem here is that there is no lobby group for the average American that collectively and democratically derives a concise consensus of public opinion and brings this collective decision in front of the government. The American collective is supposed to be the true group deciding all laws in this land…not only a partisan governing body. Yes, I understand that would be impossible. However, is this not what a true democracy is? We take the power away from a king, a dictator, a governing body, a special interest or lobby group, and put it squarely in the hands of the people.
People can look no farther than partisan politics and the current system of special interest lobbying to see what has effectively established the separation of the classes in the United States. What is mine is mine and what is yours can be yours as long as you make the payments with interest.
Shortly after elected to the presidency, Barack Obama placed severe restrictions on lobbying stating “No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.” The problem with this statement is that it too had a loophole so big that soon after that statement, the Obama administration broke that promise with the same action that was supposed to limit lobbying in Washington. The Obama administration handed out three waivers that were publicly known. Each were former lobbyists that ended up working within the administration.
- William Lynn – “Former Raytheon Lobbyist for six years, lobbying extensively on a broad range of defense-related issues. When confirmed, Lynn would be the top operations manager at the Pentagon, with final authority on a number of contract, program and budget decisions.”
- Jocelyn Frye – Who became “the director of policy and projects in the Office of the First Lady. She previously lobbied for National Partnership for Women and Families from 2001 to 2008. The organization advocates for fairness in the workplace, access to health care and “policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.” Many of the laws for which Frye lobbied are things Obama has supported. In 2008, for example, she was listed as lobbyist working for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act , the first law Obama signed into law after becoming president.”
- Cecilia Muñoz – Became “director of intergovernmental affairs in the Executive Office of the President, managing the White House’s relationships with state and local governments. She has also been designated the administration’s a principal liaison to the Hispanic community. Muñoz formerly lobbied for National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, between 1998 and 2008. Records show she lobbied on issues like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), improving Head Start and youth intervention programs.”
* Numbers 1-3 above taken from politifact.com
What did President Obama do here? Through a loophole, he allowed specific people with influential special interest connections directly into the administration. This is exactly what he was supposed to be fighting against. However, what happened was that he made these restrictions in order to get the further favor of the American people and still have the loophole ability to break that promise if need be for the favor for himself, and his party. You can say he lied, but he simply did what is done with every law that is passed…provide a loophole or attachment to satisfy the desire of himself, his party, and currently reigning or important special interest that happens to be throwing the most money and rhetoric around at the time.
- Disallow loophole clauses or clauses that reverse the purpose of the action or law.
- Allow a petition for revision of the law at any time with full Congressional approval. This may seem obvious and already in place, but without #1 above, it becomes much more powerful.
- Disallow law or bill add-ons that do not pertain to the main subject of the bill or law. Unlike what you have been told, this will not gridlock the government. It will ensure proper evaluation of each individual law passed. This will also force the lobbying groups into a direct confrontation with the actions or bills they wish to get passed.
- Disallow lobbyists from working within government for two presidential terms after leaving the lobbying industry.
- Disallow government officials from working within the lobby industry for two presidential terms after leaving their government post.
- Disallow individualized corporate lobbying and allow industry lobbying. For example, allow all oil companies to lobby under one group.
- Disallow lobby groups from lobbying individual government workers or elected officials.
- Provide a public session of Congress to hear out the concerns of these interest groups. Duly note their concerns in a format available to the American public. Allow for feedback from the American public, then vote according to the concerns of all. This will ensure the highest possible government transparency.
- Disallow lobbying within the area of Homeland Security or the protection of the United States and its citizens. This area should be handled through government contract only. It should be known that total transparency in this area is not in the greater good.
- Disallow revision of numbers 1-9 above unless through a general public electoral vote.
We are the American public. We not only have a right to know, but we have a right to effect peaceful, sweeping change in this country. In a democracy, the people are the power and the government is their representative. In the United States, the government is the power making the choices that they see as being the most fit for the American people with rarely asking the American people if they care or agree because they see the special interests and their party agendas as the general voice of the people. I am here to say that they are incorrect.
It is time for a real change.
Check out the next in my series entitled; Politics: A Time for a Real Change – Fear
Check out these other good blogs!
~ Erik Sudberg