Would you like to get a 22 percent return on the money you invest? Wow, that would be awfully good in today's sorry market!

Would you like to get a 22 percent return on the money you invest? Wow, that would be awfully good in today’s sorry market!

Well, how about a 2,200 percent return? No way, you say, that’d be a Ponzi scheme. Now, try a 22,000 percent return on your investment. If you think that percentage is the silly stuff of fantasyland, you’ve been playing in the wrong market, for that is the level of payoff that corporations have received by investing in a sure thing: Washington lobbyists.

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Three University of Kansas professors recently issued a report on a corporate lobbying effort to win a special tax break in 2004. Pushed in the name of creating jobs, this bill (which drastically cut corporate taxes on foreign profits) actually created no job gains for workaday folks, but it did produce a job boom for lobbyists, Focusing on 93 major companies – including such giants as Pfizer, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard – the study found that the firms spent $283 million on lobbyists to slide the bill through Congress. In return, the special break they won produced a financial windfall for the 93 corporations, allowing them to dodge $62.5 billion in taxes they otherwise owed – a 22,000 percent dividend on their investment in lobbyists.

Not every lobbying campaign produces such eye-popping results, but Washington influence peddlers now promise corporate clients that they’ll get returns of 100 to 1 or better on every dollar invested in professional lobbyists. What we have here is an admission – a boast, really – that legislation is for sale and that you have to pay to play.

It’s the golden rule – them with the gold rule – and it mocks America’s pretension that ours is a system of representational democracy. To help push for lobbying reform, contact the U.S. Public Interest Research Group at

“Reports: Lobbying pays off big time for big companies,” Austin American Statesman,” April 10, 2009.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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