My dictionary defines a “staff” as a walking stick, used either for balance – or as a weapon.
So how are today’s congressional staffs used? At one time, they were behind-the-scenes people hired to walk lawmakers through the complexities of legislation, or to help find some balance between competing viewpoints. These days, though, top staffers tend to be a specific type of high-profile operative: Corporate lobbyists.
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At the urging of House Speaker John Boehner, members are bringing the K-Street lobbying crowd directly inside their offices and committees to run America’s lawmaking process. There’s nothing subtle about the intent – these staffs are weapons for knocking aside the public interest and advancing the narrow legislative interests of their former corporate clients. Yes, the same corporations that generously fund the campaigns of Boehner’s Republican majority. Neat, huh?
As the excellent investigative digger Lee Fang recently detailed in The Nation, the conflict of interest in this hat-switching scheme is a brazen, insolent affront to our democratic ideals and to any sense of ethics. Examples abound, ranging from the new staff director of the Intelligence Committee (who comes straight from lobbying for such intelligence contractors and profiteers as General Dynamics, Boeing, and the infamous Blackwater outfit) to a leading anti-minimum wage lobbyist for retail giants like Walmart, who has now been embedded as a top staffer inside the troika of House leaders.
It’s bad enough that our laws have been corrupted by unlimited corporate spending on their army of influence peddlers. But now we taxpayers have the added insult of having to foot the bill for the horde of lobbyists who’ve quietly been slipped inside to serve as staffers. They’re not there merely to influence lawmakers, but to become the de facto, unelected Corporate Congress.
“With These Hires, Congress Becomes Even More Like a Corporation,” www.thenation.com, February 11, 2015.