Lobbyists: "We're Tired of Bribing Lawmakers"

Gerald Cassidy, an uberlobbyist in DC, had a remarkable statement a few weeks ago.

Cassidy says his blog entries won't back specific policies favored by his clients. He instead plans to share his opinions on larger political issues. He says he intends to push for public financing of political campaigns to rebuild public trust in government and for more government oversight of hedge funds.

Cassidy isn't the only frustrated lobbyist who just wants to make the case for his clients on the pure merits of the issue.  In general, you hear a lot of chatter that lobbyists don't like being hit up for cash all the time by their politician colleagues.

There's a grand bargain in here somewhere, with a possible deal to get rid of excessive and ineffective ethics laws constraining behavior rather than dealing with the incentive problem in political campaigns.  Public financing has some interesting adherents.

Tags: campaign finance, public financing (all tags)



Re: "We're Tired of Bribing Lawmakers"

Or is it possible that lobbyists like government-funded campaigns because then they will be able to lobby for campaign funding as well?  If the government becomes the main source of campaign funding, then guess who is going to help politicians get it?  If lobbyists could add campagin funds to their exisitng menu of R&D funding, tax breaks, agriculutural subsidies, etc. that would be a wonderful growth business for them.

by m g 2007-04-30 07:57AM | 0 recs
I don't follow

I'm not sure what system you are envisioning.  Surely campaign financing would not be on the basis of legislation directing money to specific candidates or by a system of writing grant proposals.  I think I am missing something in your comment.

by John DE 2007-04-30 08:18AM | 0 recs
Re: "We're Tired of Bribing Lawmakers"

The public financing system, including the Durbin/Specter Fair Elections Now Act, is a voluntary system in which candidates who agree to limit campaign spending and swear off private contributions can receive public funding for their campaigns simply by collecting a threshhold number of $5 contributions from constituents.

So it doesn't allow for lobbyists to get money "earmarked" to a client or campaign, if that's what you were thinking.

Rather, it takes the overwhelming influence of big money on campaigns and turns it upside down, allowing candidates to spend their time talking to regular voters, not just big donors.  It's terrific to see a prominent lobbyist like Gerry Cassidy vowing to work to promote this solution.  Good to see this revisited, Matt.

by jzaharoff 2007-04-30 08:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Lobbyists: We're Tired of Bribing Lawmakers

I keep on hearing that lobbyists are tired of being hit up for contributions, but do you ever hear of them leaning on legislators for a public-financing bill as they hand over that check?

Unless and until they put their infamous muscle behind public financing, I'm not taking them seriously.

If they say they're waiting for the initiative to come from elsewhere, let me be the first to call bullshit.  That's what lobbyists DO - they get Congress to consider and pass legislation that has almost NO public groundswell of support.

by RT 2007-04-30 07:58AM | 0 recs
public financing of campaigns

is the reform that makes all other reforms possible.

It really would be wonderful if we could separate lobbyists who are simply influence peddlers from those who lobby because they believe in their cause.

I gotta think that on the other side of the equasion there must be plenty of lawmakers who don't like spending all their time dialing for dollars too....

by Jim in Chicago 2007-04-30 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Lobbyists: "We're Tired ..."

This may well be a good thing in the long run.

The timing seems interesting, however.  He wasn't so "tired of bribing lawmakers" to change his ways while Rs were in power.  But now the Ds run Congress, no more gravy train.

Different ways you can read this, but it's interesting.

by JJF 2007-04-30 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Lobbyists: "We're Tired ..."

I've been hearing this chatter for years.  But it never seems to be more than just chatter.  

Seems that if more than a few big lobbyists actually felt this way, they could get something rolling.  Since they aren't, I'm skeptical about how much they mean it.

To quote from The Maltese Falcon:

Sam Spade: Ten thousand? We were talking about a lot more money than this.
Kasper Gutman: Yes, sir, we were, but this is genuine coin of the realm. With a dollar of this, you can buy ten dollars of talk.

So far, all we're seeing is the talk.

by RT 2007-04-30 09:51AM | 0 recs
expect some business support, too

In general, you hear a lot of chatter that lobbyists don't like being hit up for cash all the time by their politician colleagues.

Good point, and the same goes for many in the business community--some, especially smaller businesses, don't like fueling the political arms race and don't like being hit up for contributions at every turn.  They're in a tight spot, as small businesses are often outgunned by the biggest companies who can contribute more and then expect more return on those "investments," e.g. earmarks.

There's a lot to like about public financing for those who don't benefit under the current system--which is most of us.

by jzaharoff 2007-04-30 08:42AM | 0 recs

Wow. Just goes to show -- cui bono from all of this? Lobbyists.

Hedge funds don't need oversight. Sure, that industry has its share of shady actors, blowups and what not, but compared to the mutual fund industry, the hedge fund managers are saints.

The mutual fund lobbyists have been pushing relentlessly to protect themselves from hedge funds. They recently strong-armed the SEC into raising the investment requirement for hedge funds from $250k to $1 million, because more and more money is flowing into long/short funds that are infinitely more flexible than the mutual-fund old guard.

Plus, once the hedge funds fall under government control, they won't be able to be politically uppity a la Soros, because they will be vulnerable to retribution of regulators in the service of better-connected clients.

It also gives power to industry associations and other establishmentarian herds, as opposed to individuals. Movements need spontaneous outbreaks of individualism to be authentic in the first place.

Public financing just empowers whomever the media establishment chooses to empower, through free and favorable media coverage.

The netroots would have been nothing without the massive cash flow from individuals who were frozen out by the pre-Dean Beltway establishment. Money built the netroots' megaphone, and restrictions on that ability will only reduce that representation. Public financing is the old guard's siren song to retrench its diminished power.

by jforshaw 2007-04-30 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: lol

Oh, and it will require all major hedge funds to register lobbyists so that they aren't regulated to death from losing the Beltway lobbyist arms race.

But I'm sure that has nothing to do with the uberlobbyist's newfound goo-goo zeal.

by jforshaw 2007-04-30 09:36AM | 0 recs
Should help lobbyists' cash margins

Considering that thinly-veiled bribery is 99% of their operating costs.

by jcjcjc 2007-04-30 09:38AM | 0 recs

by msnook 2007-04-30 11:33AM | 0 recs
If the lobbyists are tired too...

Seriously.  If lobbyists are sick of the donation mill (news to me), and industry is sick of forking over the dough (news to me), and politicians are sick of dialing for dollars (recall Webb and DeFazio), then there may be a grand bargain here.

Chris Dodd has been working this angle for a while, hasn't he?  I'd love to see him push this issue.  He's got the carbon tax and Feingold-Reid so far, and he needs a way to highlight his public financing cred, as he attempted to do in the debate.  Matt, see if you can encourage him here.  Especially with John McCain on the other side of the field, and the Pelosi House having run on  anti-corruption, and the much-remarked-upon billion-dollar-08-cycle, it's just barely conceivable that you could get a strong bill passed in this Congress, to take effect for the 2010 midterms.  Even without a bill this congress, Dodd could get some major traction in the press I'd think, because it's a strong reformer issue with, as you said, an interesting coalition potentially behind it, and it feeds into the reformer narratives surrounding Obama and McCain.  Reporters would demand to know their positions, they'd be forced to negotiate with Dodd to produce something they were able to endorse publically (or offer counter-plans), and political finance is already an issue due the 06 midterms, Abramoff, Feeney, Doolittle, and other upcoming stories.  A number of press narratives can converge on this issue, and in the bizarro world we live in, that's what matters.  (Put another way, this is a classic Daou's triangle case.)  If you have a line into these campaigns, get in touch with Dodd, please!  It could really help him and all of us.

(PS -- I've been pulling for an Obama-Dodd ticket all along.)

Also, this is the subject of the only diary I ever wrote here.

by texas dem 2007-04-30 12:52PM | 0 recs


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