The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.Great. I have long been concerned that corporations just don't have enough influence on government. The last time I looked, the U.S. Constitution began, "We the People of the United States..." I suppose today we could have another Constitutional Convention and change those words to "We the Corporations of the United States..."
Lobbyists give corporations access to politicians. But how do citizens get access to politicians? Well, certain citizens will have no trouble at all getting access if H.R. 1316 gets passed by Congress. The so-called "527 Fairness Act of 2005," which, as the Washington Post notes, isn't really about 527 groups or fairness, will eliminate those bothersome campaign contribution limits put in place after Watergate when the corruptive influence of money was a big concern. Apparently it doesn't matter now. Here is a summary of H.R. 1316:
To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to repeal the limit on the aggregate amount of campaign contributions that may be made by individuals during an election cycle, to repeal the limit on the amount of expenditures political parties may make on behalf of their candidates in general elections for Federal office, to allow State and local parties to make certain expenditures using nonfederal funds, to restore certain rights to exempt organizations under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and for other purposes.Instead of delivering the promised "fairness," it simply makes a bad situation worse. Most of us cannot reach the existing ceiling of $101,400 per election cycle (total including contributions to individuals and parties), but imagine what will happen when the sky is the limit. If a politician gets $1 million from Mr. Billionaire and $50 from you, who do you think he will listen to? H.R. 1316 just gives the very wealthy more power in government, and that will hurt the rest of us. Certain groups are spinning this as a way to "protect free speech for all Americans" because it diminishes the influence of 527 groups. The Washington Post easily refutes this argument:
But the way to address the problem of 527s is to bring them within the rules that govern all groups whose purpose is to influence federal elections--not, as this bill would do, to open the spigots wider for all.This bill is a bad idea for anyone who lacks the means to buy his or her way into the game. Unfortunately, some congressmen are thinking only of the big sacks of money this law would deliver to them.
Lobbyists put individuals at a disadvantage against corporations in the legislative process, and H.R. 1316 puts lower, middle, and even upper middle class Americans at a disadvantage against the very wealthy. Neither bodes well for democracy.