Corporate lobbying is here to stay

Commentator and Washington Post columnist Jeff Birnbaum

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

SCOTT JAGOW: A few months ago, lobbying scandals dominated the talk in Washington, and Congress vowed major changes to the rules on gift-giving and other ethical issues. Well, lawmakers are back in session this week and it looks like those grand schemes are all but dead. Washington's K Street lobbying corridor is known for its connections to big business. But if Democrats manage to win one or both Houses of Congress this November, will the situation be any different? Commentator Jeff Birnbaum is skeptical.


JEFF BIRNBAUM: Most people think business is synonymous with Republicans and vice versa.

In fact, business interests team up with whoever's in power in Washington.

For years, the GOP has controlled the House, Senate and the White House, and since gaining access to those places is lobbying's stock-in-trade, Republicans were usually enlisted as front men on K Street.

But now the political winds are shifting and so are the tactics of business executives. Democrats are back into vogue as lobbyists.

What does this say about our nation's capital? Well, nothing very good for anyone who thinks that Democrats are fundamentally different than Republicans when it comes to special interest lobbying.

The country's largest businesses are smart enough and rich enough to hire whoever they need to make their case on Capitol Hill.

When it was useful to have Republicans, that's who they had. And if Democrats are needed to do the persuading, then Democrats it will be.

For any idealists out there who thought there might be a Populist wave about the wash over Washington, I have some bad news.

Lobbying, especially corporate lobbying, is here to stay. Democratic senators like Deleware's Joe Biden, or would-be Democratic senators like Ned Lamont of Connecticut, may talk a big anti-lobbyist game, but that's little more than campaign rhetoric.

Washington wouldn't work without K Street and its tens of thousands of lobbyists. I'm not exaggerating.

Most of the information that lawmakers use to make decisions comes from lobbyists. There simply isn't another or a better source.

If that means that interest groups will hire more Democrats to make their case, well, that's the way it'll be. There are plenty of Democrats eager to help out for a fee.

K Street is already well on the way to restructuring itself to all-but-insure a pro-business tilt to legislation, no matter who's in charge.

JAGOW: Jeff Birnbaum is a columnist for The Washington Post. You can share your thoughts with us at Marketplace.org. And in fact since election season is upon us, and we want you to tell US what issues are important to you. Go to our Web site, Marketplace.org, and help us cover the Real Agenda. In Los Angeles, I'm Scott Jagow. Thanks for tuning in and have a great day.

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