Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

May 25, 2010

Rippy: More on lobbying and earmarks

MT. VERNON — Let’s dig a little deeper into the buying of our political leaders and how it has damaged our country so badly. It was recently reported that lobbyists for the banking industry made it clear to senators their decision, in relation to the passage of legislation by the house pertaining to regulating fees charged to small businesses for debit card transactions, would affect future campaign donations.

Sound like a threat? Vote my way or do not expect money to finance your campaign. A website, www.opensecrets.org,  lists the huge amounts of money spent by special interest groups including corporations, by name and amount spent over the years. They do not spend billions of dollars to look out for every citizen’s interest. They spend these huge amounts to look out for the interest of the group they represent, and more often than not, the votes they are buying are not in your best interest. Take a look.

A special interest’s lobbying activity may go up or down over time, depending on how much attention the federal government is giving their issues. Particularly active clients often retain multiple lobbying firms, each with a team of lobbyists, to press their case for them. Take a look at 2009. Does it not cause you to ponder why oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies, hospital associations, medical associations and other large companies need to spend so much money to influence Congress? I just find it hard to believe that they are spending this much money for the benefit of all citizens.

Just considering that we have some of the highest drug prices in the world for common drugs, and seeing that the top drug lobbying group and a top drug maker is in the top five as reported, it does not take a rocket scientist to make the connection. Seeing a giant oil company in the top five, and outrageous gasoline prices sort of connects for me. How about you?  How about these numbers reported for 2009 spent buying the votes in Congress? This is what was reportedly spent by:   Exxon Mobil, $27.4 million; Pfizer Inc., $24.6 million; Blue Cross/Blue Shield, $23.2 million; American Medical Association, $20.8 million; Chevron, $20.8 million; American Hospital Association, $18.3 million; Conoco Philips, $18.0 million; and British Petroleum, $15 million.

Take a look at the data on earmarks listed on the Web site. I think you will be astonished at how much of your money — taxpayer money — is spent without your knowledge. You would not allow this in your personal expenses and yet we allow this undercover operation to continue unabated as contributors to the Senators and Congressmen and women are rewarded with earmarks for their campaign contributions.

They spend our money to satisfy the special interest groups at the expense of you and me. We can stop this at the voting booth or accept the continued problems of lost jobs and economical decline. We have to let them know in the only way we can that enough is enough and we are fed up with the direction our country is taking. I get a little sick of hearing that, “it’s just politics” or that it has “always been that way.” Try telling your kids and grand-kids that when they reach working age and cannot find a good job.

I know that many of you agree that we have the most corrupt Congress in history, and I know that many of you agree that it needs to be changed. You ask yourselves, what can I do? Write or call your legislators and question where they stand on banning lobbying, clean elections/publicly financed, total transparency on all earmarks, and elimination of bribery with amendments.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that special interests spent about $19 million per day on lobbying efforts. The staggering amount spent between January and March actually represents of about a 7 percent decrease from the nearly $970 million spent during the final quarter of 2009, when major legislation on health care, Wall Street reform and other issues experienced votes in either the House or Senate.

Nonetheless, business associations, health interests, energy companies and Wall Street firms all still invested more than $123 million apiece on lobbying efforts during the first three months of 2010. The top 10 spenders lobbying Congress in the first quarter of 2010 reported on www.opensecrets.org will not be a surprise. PhRMA, representing the drug industry spent $7 million; the American Medical Association spent $6.3 million; Pfizer Inc., spent $4.3 million; the American Hospital Association spent $4.1 million; Merck & Co. spent $3.2 million; Blue Cross/Blue Shield spent $2.7 million; Eli Lilly & Co. spent $2.3 million; and Glaxo Smith Kline spent $2.2 million. There is no mystery as to why we have a health care reform bill over 2,000 pages that does not solve the problem of rising unaffordable health care.

The special interest groups, through their lobbyists, were able to modify it to suit their needs and delay it until 2013, after the elections. This gives them time to defeat the legislators, who will vote the will of the people and elect the ones who vote for the special interest who fund their campaigns.

Please take the time to questions the candidates before the November 2010 and 2012 elections by phone, mail, town hall or whatever is available. Find out where they stand on these issues of banning lobbyist, clean elections, transparent earmarks, amendment bribing. Whether you are Republican or Democrat does not make any difference on these issues. Whether you are liberal or conservative does not make any difference on these issues. We are talking about restoring integrity and honesty to a Congress that will follow the will of the people rather than treating us as mushrooms by feeding us manure and keeping us in the dark.

We have to break the cycle of the special interest groups with pockets full of money controlling our government. Each of us needs to become a “lobbyist of one” and vote for the candidates who will restore our government to the people. I have heard that it is a constitutional right to lobby or petition our government. I certainly would not disagree with that. I just do not believe our founders who wrote our Constitution meant for special interest groups to be able to buy our government to the detriment of the citizens. Let’s just become a “lobbyist of one” and take back our government from the special interest groups with the deep pockets.

  • James Rippy is a former manager of what is now Continental Tire North America in Mt. Vernon and has authored a book titled “Executivitis.” E-mail him at rippyj@charter.net.

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