The Mix

Lobbying: The opinion page versus the news pages

Do they fact-check op-eds?
Yesterday's WaPo featured an absolutely slimy Op-ed defending the lobbying industry by Jan Baran, who Oliver Willis notes gave $6 thousand bucks to support this corrupt Republican majority in the last cycle:
…In the midst of the current furor, reports do not mention that there are thousands of lobbyists in Washington who are honorable and honest people and who render a service that is both critical to a democratic society and enshrined in our Constitution.
You know who else is honorable and honest? Giardia lamblia. But despite all its honor and honesty, it's still an anal parasite.

And what about that Constitutional issue?
The same constitutional provision that ensures the press may proclaim a lobbyist's guilty plea also protects the act of lobbying. The First Amendment is well-known for guaranteeing freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. Often overlooked in its litany of fundamental civil liberties is the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
No, it doesn't guarantee corporate lobbyists anything. It guarantees citizens the right to petition their government. Those rights, according to historian Thom Hartmann, were quasi-legally extended to corporations in 1886 by a shifty law clerk who had sold out to the railroad barons.

But that's not what I want to highlight from the WaPo op-ed. It's this:
Most corporate offices in Washington have instituted compliance systems to ensure that their lobbyists do not exceed gift limits. For all these reasons, lobbyists are appalled at Abramoff's practice of extravagant wining and dining (at his own restaurant!), orchestrating lavish trips and offering campaign contributions in exchange for specific official acts.
That was on the opinion page exactly one week after the following ran in the WaPo's political news section:
More than 80 lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides are listed as having accepted entertainment from lobbyists for BellSouth Corp. at levels that appear to exceed congressional gift limits, according to a document produced by the company's Washington office.
The document, which was obtained from an employee of the telecommunications firm who said she was disturbed by the pattern, sheds light on one of the capital's worst-kept secrets: Congressional gift restrictions are frequently ignored. […]
The experience is not isolated. "The gift rules have been broken steadily for a long time despite strong efforts by corporations to stay within the limits," said Douglas G. Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council, an education group for lobbyists. Paul A. Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists, agreed: "If you call that an abuse, it probably is the biggest one."[…]
In the main, the gift limit operates on the honor system. The policy is not routinely policed by any agency outside or inside Congress, nor are lobbyists or congressional officials required to disclose the gifts of meals, tickets for sporting events and the like while they are in Washington. "Repeated violations could be handled by the ethics committees but there are no cases that come to mind," said Kenneth A. Gross, an ethics lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
So, one piece or the other is complete crap. Guess which?
Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer.
Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018