To take or not to take lobbyist contributions? Is that the question?
by David Donnelly, Thu Oct 19, 2006 at 09:36:53 AM EDT
Jonathan's post yesterday raised a good question. After 12 years of Republican efforts to take over K Street as their own ATM, will Democrats hamper a bold agenda by raising money from scrambling lobbyists who see a Democratic takeover of Congress coming?
He argued that Democrats ought to reject that money. They don't need it, and shouldn't take it. Others, like Nancy Pelosi's spokesperson, say, everyone knows the Democratic agenda and that agenda won't be influenced by the money.
I think there's another bigger issue here... Instead of asking if the House Democrats will bite the hands that feed them on their issue agenda if they retake the House, we should ask this question:
Will a Democratic House be more in debt to the help they receive from K Street, or will they be more in debt to the voters who cast their votes for Democratic candidates who pledged to clean up Washington's corruption?
I agree that we should be concerned about the money from lobbyists and how it may narrow or blunt some of the proposals put forth by Democrats. But we should be just as concerned with whether the Democrats "lose" their nerve to truly clean up the money-swamp on the Potomac if they get too cozy and complacent with K Street.
According to the USA Today/Gallup survey last week, Americans are now saying government corruption one of the most important issues facing the country.
I've sat through countless focus groups and studied scores of polling analyses on these types of issues over 12 years. If there's one major thing politicians (not just Democrats, but they better play close attention) need to understand, is that people don't think "reforms" should be about what politicians want. That might sound like a no-brainer, but elected officials need to speak with clarity about how what they propose gives people control over their government.
If they win the House, how Democrats lead on cleaning up Congress will be one of the most interesting issues in the post-election day time. Some leaders, like Steny Hoyer (D-MD), have gone on record for putting voters first with public financing. Other challengers in competitive races, like Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), are reaping the political benefits of the scandal-plagued Rep. John Sweeney and have made ethics and reform a centerpiece of her race, as has Jerry McNerney (D) running against Richard Pombo (R-CA). (There are countless other examples of challengers all over the country who are reaping the benefits of the scandals and leading on these issues. Give some examples in the comments.)
I think there's a role for the netroots in shaping and supporting this. What do you think? Will the Democrats propose serious reforms?