HIGHTOWER: Lawmakers-Turned-Lobbyists

If you're not a part of the solution ... chances are you're part of the Congress!One giant problem with today's Congress is that too many members are just passing through, on their way to something bigger. No, I don't mean higher office. I mean they are on their way to becoming corporate lobbyists.Congress has become a training ground, where one can learn how the system works, figure out where the bodies are buried, gain expertise in certain legislative areas, become buddy-buddy with key lawmakers -- then sell all of this to a Washington lobbying firm for five-to-ten-times the salary you got as a member of congress.Take Norman Lent, the former Republican House member from New York. Now a partner in a pricey Washington firm, Lent told The Hill newspaper that his experience as a congressman meant he could [quote] "hit the ground running" as a lobbyist. "You understand the procedures and rules," he pointed out, adding that "You have a personal relationship with some members which makes it easier to talk to them, easier to get access and to get them."Mr. Lent is one of dozens of former members who are now lobbyists, riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels. One high-powered firm even has a salt-and-pepper set of former Senate Majority leaders in its stable: Republican Bob Dole and Democrat George Mitchell.If you're a corporation having an ex-member do your lobbying not only buys you prestige, but also special access to the corridors of power, since former-members are allowed to go where mere mortals cannot tread. They still can go into the cloistered cloakrooms, into the member's gym and dining room ... and even onto the floor of congress itself. This is why lobbying firms recruit lawmakers to cross-over and join them, like sports teams recruiting free-agent stars.This is Jim Hightower saying ... And the beauty is that these lawmakers-turned-lobbyists get all of their training at our expense -- another example of your tax dollars at work.

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