LOBBYISTS AND LAWMAKERS, PLAYING BY THE RULES

It's hard to get a good feeling about a congress critter whose PR aide trots out to make a defensive statement like this: "Every fundraising event Sen. Chambliss has held has been appropriately conducted, all expenses have been closely scrutinized, and all reporting has been accurate."

It’s hard to get a good feeling about a congress critter whose PR aide trots out to make a defensive statement like this: “Every fundraising event Sen. Chambliss has held has been appropriately conducted, all expenses have been closely scrutinized, and all reporting has been accurate.”

Whenever a politico claims that all is above board, immediately peek below board.

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So let’s take a peek at the many golf outings of Sen. Saxbe Chambliss of Georgia. He’s taken faraway golfing jaunts to Pebble Beach, the Greenbriar Resort, and Boca Raton. Chambliss seems to be a golfing fool, having laid out a quarter of a million bucks in the past couple of years to tee it up at such pricey places.

Yet, he’s not a rich man ­ so, who pays? Lobbyists? No, no, it’s against Senate ethic rules for influence peddlers to finance a member’s golf junket. But, wait! There is one slippery little loophole that allows Chambliss and other lawmakers to collect hundreds of thousands dollars each from well-heeled lobbyists and corporate executives, putting the cash in a secretive, personal political pocket known as a “leadership PAC.”

While members can’t spend this money on their own campaigns, they can spend it on just about anything else. So, if a guy like Chambliss gets the twitch to fly across country for some golfing, coupled with some wining and dining, a couple of corporations can put $50,000 or so in his leadership PAC, which can then provide a private jet, hotel rooms, green fees, etcetera, for a weekend schmoozefest between the donors and the donee. To add to the loopiness of this loophole, lawmakers don’t even have to report which lobbyists put up the money or who went on the junket. Chambliss reported one $50,000 golf outing in these terse terms: “PAC event/Lodging/Banquet/Golf.”

Note that those who so loudly proclaim that they’re playing by the rules ­ are the ones who write the rules.

“Leadership PACs Provide a Ticket to Luxury Lawmaking,” Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com, September 27, 2009.

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