Hightower: Lobbyists Buy Congress

If you ever want to see "Your Government in Action," don't go to the Capitol or the White House, just park and watch the comings and goings at any of several other private watering holes in Washington. You'll see big-money lobbyists trek in and out of fundraising receptions -- morning, noon, and night -- hauling bushel baskets of campaign contributions to members of Congress, expecting favorable votes from them in return. Lobbyists even have a name for this daily routine -- "Feeding Time" they call it. The Wall Street Journal recently tracked a day in the secret life of our congress, attending 14 events on a single day where lobbyists quietly fed various lawmakers a very rich diet of some $650,000. Six-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollars... in just one day! Start with breakfast at the Mansion on O Street -- omelets, pastries, soft jazz and a horde of corporate bagmen stuffing Rules Committee member Deborah Pryce of Ohio with $40,000. "It's just our way of sending our appreciation for being able to have access [to her]," one business lobbyists explains. Great. How much "access" have you bought recently? Ah, well, on to lunch. Forty corporate donors are having tortellini with several Democratic Senators at La Colline for only $5,000 a plate. An organizer of this exclusive, Senatorial tete-a-tete says cryptically: "We try to do events [that are] fairly intimate, so you can discuss whatever you want." Then the evening. One-stop shopping is available at the Capitol Hill Club, where two Republican congressmen are being toasted on the fourth floor, three on the third and GOP Whip Tom Delay on the first floor. Another day, another $650,000. Hey, let's demand campaign finance reform to stop this wholesaling of our democracy.

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