Wednesday, November 16, 2005
As Dems Challenge Lobbyists' Power, D.C. Establishment Freaks Out
Why are House Democrats' efforts to distance themselves from K Street corporate lobbyists being portrayed as a problem?
That's the question I have after reading today's Hill Newspaper story in which the political establishment disgustingly portrays House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's independence from K Street as some sort of negative trait. The story says "lobbyists are grumbling that they have not been enjoying the same access to Pelosi as they have in the past." These lobbyists are used to lawmakers "run[ning] plans past K Street early to avoid any surprises or disagreements farther down the line." That's a euphemism for Corporate America expecting the people's representatives to make sure to get Big Business's stamp of approval on every potential piece of legislation.Pelosi, of course, should be congratulated for her independence, especially since we're living through the Republicans' "Culture of Corruption" whereby K Street essentially dictates everything that our government does. As just one example, the Washington Post notes that the House of Representatives is run by Roy Blunt (R-MO), a guy who has maximized his "influence by delegating authority to Washington business and trade association lobbyists to help negotiate deals with individual House members to produce majorities on important issues."
The answer to my original question, of course, is clear - the reason Pelosi's independence is considered a problem in the Beltway is because those in the Beltway's political establishment have entirely different priorities than ordinary people in the rest of the country. In Washington, a lack of independence is actually valued. Pelosi actually thinking and leading on her own is considered taboo. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who the Hill notes "has often been averse to the lobbying community" and has proposed tightening lobbying rules, is looked upon negatively. Meanwhile, people like House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) are applauded in the Beltway for "hold[ing] regular meetings with lobbyists" and publicly "[seeking] to make himself the first contact for K Street," regardless of how that image undermines Democrats' ability to question the GOP's proximity to corporate lobbyists.
To be sure, this skewed value system in D.C. is being rejected by Democrats outside the beltway. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D), for instance, have both demanded serious lobbying reforms in their states. Similarly, lawmakers in the newly-Democratic Colorado legislature pushed a lobbying crackdown in the last legislative session. These folks understand the powerful potential of actually getting serious about cleaning up government, and pushing for true reform, even if it means going up against Big Money interests.
Let's hope that these terrific efforts outside the Beltway will encourage people like Pelosi, Miller and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) to continue standing their ground; rejecting pay-to-play, K Street-dominated politics; and reshaping the Democratic Party into a vessel of real reform.