Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, June 11, 2007

34,750 lobbyists ran off with our democracy

I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale. - Thomas Jefferson

Do you realize that the number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since Bush took office? Is it any wonder Congress is thrashing around, sneaking coal and oil-friendly legislation into unrelated bills and struggling mightily to clean up its own act?

There is an aggressive cancer eating at the heart of our Federal government, and a vast majority of Democrats are standing around, wringing their hands - and occasionally offering an aspirin. They really can't do much more than that, because most of them ran for office using cash contributed by the very corporations who are now demanding repayment of their investments. The candidates are happy to accept our votes, but the real representation goes elsewhere.

de·moc·ra·cy Pronunciation Key - [di-mok-ruh-see] – noun, plural -cies.
1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
2. a state having such a form of government: The United States and Canada are democracies.
3. a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.
4. political or social equality; democratic spirit.
5. the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.

Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains. - Thomas Jefferson

cap·i·tal·ism Pronunciation Key - [kap-i-tl-iz-uhm] – noun

an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.


Doesn't take long to see why this isn't working out very well - for us anyway.
Its too bad our forefathers weren't able to slip in a little constitutional language about separation of corp and state.

Its that whole sticky issue of representation. Who is heard? The voices of the common man, or the few, influential power brokers who can afford to buy legislators and votes? If you've misplaced your di-mok-ruh-see lately, try looking on K Street.

Lobbyists now outnumber legislators :

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.

The lobbying boom has been caused by three factors, experts say: rapid growth in government, Republican control of both the White House and Congress, and wide acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure their share of federal benefits.

They may soon have their own candidate for president: Fred Thompson, the cigar-smoking, tough-talking, 'oh please be our next Reagan' actor the GOP pundits are all swooning over. What the GOP doesn't want you to know is that he spent 18 years as a Washington lobbyist.

Thom Hartmann did a piece on this - and I saw that David Sirota has one on Alternet too - but of course the mainstream media won't touch it. Thompson is already their golden boy.

After Thom Hartmann brought this up, I started doing some digging and couldn't believe the things (asbestos, savings and loan deregulation) that came to light. I'm actually glad there is a little extra time before the upcoming election. Maybe some of this dirt will come out in time, if only via blogging and by word of mouth.

This from Wikipedia:

From 1975 to 1992 Thompson worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He represented such clients as Westinghouse, General Electric (the current corporate owner of the NBC Universal-NBC television network), and the Tennessee Savings and Loan League.[8]

By 1982, Thompson was lobbying the U.S. Congress for passage of the Savings and Loan deregulation legislation. The federal deregulation legislation allowed for additional government support of ailing S&Ls; gave U.S. thrifts the freedom to invest in potentially more profitable, but riskier, ventures; and eliminated interest-rate ceilings on new accounts. Thompson's recommendations were incorporated into the Garn - St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982.[8]

In 1991, he began work with the Washington, D.C. firm of Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin, & Kahn, representing overseas business entities as a registered foreign agent.

All the NY Times had to say about him was 'he took on some lobbying clients:'

"Mr. Thompson came into the public eye -- and ear, considering his distinctive voice -- in the early 1970s when he served as Republican counsel to the Senate Watergate committee. He then took on some lobbying clients, and was later asked to investigate a parole scandal in Tennessee. That episode led to a book and a movie, 'Marie,' in which Mr. Thompson played himself, kicking off his acting career. Elected to the Senate in 1994 to fill the remaining two years of Al Gore's term after he was elected vice president."

According to this workingassetsblog post, Politico reported a month ago that:

"Over about two decades of lobbying (during which he also acted and practiced law), Thompson made nearly $1.3 million and represented clients including a British reinsurance company facing billions of dollars in asbestos claims, Canadian-owned cable companies, and deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, according to government documents and media accounts from his first run for the Senate in 1994...'There's nothing wrong with lobbying. It's an honorable profession,' Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo said...A year after stepping down [from the Senate], he registered to lobby for British reinsurance company Equitas Ltd. The company paid him $760,000 to guard its interests against several bills seeking to protect businesses from asbestos lawsuits."

Move over Rudi - even you can't beat that track record.

Yes, this is Wall Street's dream candidate for 2008. Maybe he can rebuild our schools with asbestos, and change 'No Child Left Behind' to 'No Child Left Alive.'

Wonder why impeachment isn't taken seriously (especially considering the constitutional offenses,) by more than a handful of faithful representatives - even though the populace and many lawyers are screaming for it? The masters don't approve. I mean, that's really only logical, when you think about it from their point of view. It's hard to imagine that the lobbyists and their corporate employers would take kindly to an impeachment process that would shut down their gravy train of government contracts and government privatization. They've never had it so good!

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. - Thomas Jefferson

A gradual takeover

It is obvious how we got here: corporate interests. Oil. The lucrative 'war contracting' business, and the Military Industrial. Washington has changed. Its now completely over-run with lobbyists.

But it didn't happen over night. Most lobbying growth occurred after the end of Nixon administration, and during the rise of Reaganomics: which may explain why we are seeing a return to Nixon-era behavior in the White House, without the Nixon-era opposition from Congress. Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s - while we were busy eating, sleeping, working and watching TV - capitalism ate democracy. We are reeling in the aftershocks of an explosion that started decades ago.

Founder and editor of The Washington Monthly, Charlie Peters came to Washington D.C. with the Kennedy campaign in 1961. Peters recalls:

When I came here [in the early 1960s], I had many young friends on Capitol Hill who ... worked on the staff of congressmen and senators, ... but they were mostly very idealistic people and what they were up to all the time was they were trying to get legislation changed for the good. They were trying a phrase in the bill here or there that would make it better. Or even if they were conservative, it was ideologically driven and they were not sold out.

Now, suddenly, in the '80s, as the culture of greed began to take hold in the whole country and you began to get this great growth in executive salaries and all those things that manifested that greed, the congressional staff members began to think not about doing good, but about currying favor with lobbyists who could give them $300,000 a year jobs so that they could eat lunch every day in those fancy restaurants and wear those Italian suits and all that went with it. And drive the Mercedes. All of those things, those guys began to want and so they began to behave in a way that was designed to please lobbyists and that has caused terrible corruption on Capitol Hill.

It's not a corruption where people are bribed directly. They are bribed indirectly by the possibility of future lucrative employment. So, that's the sad story. Those are the great ingredients I think in the sad story of the growth of Washington to its present position of dominance.

The 80s... under the Reagan administration. No wonder Wall Street is drooling over Fred Thompson. Bush is drawing way too much fire with his cowboy act and inability to speak clear English. Maybe a nice, suave, macho, comforting cloud of cigar smoke can cover the smell of stinking pork wafting through the air from the back rooms of Congress.

We must quickly become a lot smarter about the way we choose our presidential candidates. Rather than simply listening to their spin, we may have to actually do a little digging to figure out what promises they might have traded for campaign cash, behind the political fund-raising curtain.

According to Dean Baker, we can all do a quick test to determine if our favorites candidates have been bought out from under us by Wall Street:

Just call or email your favorite presidential candidate, and ask their staff whether he or she supports a securities transactions tax (STET). You will probably have to explain to the candidate's staffer what a STET is. You can tell them that a STET is a small tax placed on a trade of a share of stock or other financial asset (e.g. bonds, options, futures, etc.).

Or of course, another easy way is to simply look them up on Open Secrets. The list of contributors may surprise you... just take a look at Hillary...

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