Under GOP, Small Towns Forced to Retain High-Priced Lobbyists
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 12:31:36 PM EDT
Congressional Republicans have quite the racket going, the details of which have become even more apparent this weekend.
On Friday we learned from the Associated Press that House Appropriations chair Jerry Lewis, a Republican from the Inland Empire in Southern California, had sent sent a letter to San Bernardino County (which is in his district) recommending it hire a particular lobbyist, Tom Skancke. A cursory examination of campaign finance filings from PoliticalMoneyLine shows that Skancke has given Lewis close to $4,000 in campaign contributions in recent years, including,Jodi Rudoren and Aron Pilhofer report in today's issue of The New York Times.
Since 1998, the number of public entities hiring private firms to represent them in Washington has nearly doubled to 1,421 from 763, as places like Treasure Island, population 7,514, have jumped onboard with behemoths like Miami that have long had lobbyists.
Enlisted almost exclusively to land earmarks, lobbyists for local governments have boomed alongside a broader explosion in such appropriations, to 12,852 items worth $64 billion last year from 4,219 pet projects totaling $27.7 billion in 1998. The prolific earmarking does not change the overall budget's bottom line, but how the pie is cut: dollars are doled out, often in secret, at the whim of a lone legislator -- often under the influence of a lobbyist -- rather than through a competitive process.
It is against the law to use federal money to hire lobbyists. Yet local officials' near-unanimous justification is that the lobbyists pay for themselves many times over through the infusion of federal funds.
Local governments should not be shaken down by high-priced lobbyists in order to get federal dollars. If a locality is truly in need of federal assistance -- perhaps for a much-needed bridge repair or fix to water treatment plant -- their Congressman should go to bat for them, not tell them to retain a Beltway lobbyist.
But when the practice of hiring lobbying firms in order to get unnecessary pork from the federal government becomes institutionalized, as it has under Lewis and the rest of the Republican Congress, the expense to the American taxpayer goes through the roof. This is the cost of corruption. This is the cost of the Republican Congress.