THE RHETORIC AND REALITY OF LOBBYING REFORM

Wow, the two political conventions really socked it to the special interests didn’t they?! The air was so thick with tub-thumping demands for "change" that the corporate lobbying crowd must finally know that they’re on the outs, no matter which party wins in November, right?

Wow, the two political conventions really socked it to the special interests didn’t they?! The air was so thick with tub-thumping demands for “change” that the corporate lobbying crowd must finally know that they’re on the outs, no matter which party wins in November, right?

Uh… not exactly. Those same special interests enduring the blistering attacks were actually honored guests at both gatherings. In the two convention halls, they sat in the platinum-level splendor of skyboxes, watching and winking as the rhetoric flowed beneath them. What neither party wants you to know is that their presidential nominating conventions were paid for by lobbyists who were sipping cocktails and schmoozing with elected officials in those corporate suites.

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More than 100 corporations – from AFLAC to Xerox – pumped in about $100 million to finance the two political shows. In addition to having their own cozy suites, these lobbying interests also threw lavish private parties to “honor” certain powerful members of congress who have lawmaking authority over their businesses. Such shameless butt-kissing was supposedly banned by lobbying reforms passed last year. Through creative loopholery, however, the house ethics committee ruled before the conventions that this “ban” applies only to events honoring a single lawmaker – not to those functions celebrating two or more members.

As Lily Tomlin puts it, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s almost impossible to keep up.” Can this corporate stranglehold on our governing system ever be broken? Yes! From Maine to Arizona, states are showing the way by providing the alternative of public financing for political campaigns that take no funding from special interests. It’s a reform that works. To learn how to bring it to your state (and to Congress), go to www.publiccampaign.org.

“Obama Aides Defend Bank’s Pay to Biden Son,” The New York Times, August 25, 2008.

“Congress’ newest lawmakers find no lack of parties,” USA Today, August 28, 2008.

“Big Money Keeps Its Prominent Seat at the Party Conventions,” The New York Times, August 23, 2008.

“The Hand That Feeds Them,” www.nytimes.com, August 21, 2008.

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

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