Sunday, April 17, 2016
Money Finds a Way
Here's another recommended read for everyone. Priceeconomics.com has a piece on the history of lobbying that is quite interesting. It comes as a part of the book "Corruption In America" by Zephyr Teachout.
Lobbying, it turns out, was originally viewed as a great evil by governments across the board in this country, and was pointedly supported as such by the courts of the time. The idea back then was that selling your access to provide influence for someone else went way beyond any claim you might have to petition congress to redress issues of concern (as the constitution protects); especially when the mode of persuasion had more to do with exchanges of money and gifts to persuade, as opposed to factual documentation of supposed grievances. It was only later, as lobbying became a more contractual arrangement, and the courts started giving greater weight to such contracts (under the auspices of Tort law one supposes), that the tide began to turn.
What is interesting in this from my perspective, however, is that this initial view of access to lawmakers was in stark contrast to the fact that outright bribery still occurred fairly often. So what we are talking about here, it seems to me, is how influence became institutionalized as an accepted adjunct to governance; and in that I think do we see how influence itself was commoditized, and made legitimately marketable. This, in turn, made it ever so much more inevitable that the ultimate goal of holding office in the first place would be decreasingly about public service, and increasingly about getting your street creds in place so as to be able to market your own ability to lobby; where, of course, the serious money now lies (all puns intended).
In this fashion there is a lot less need to bribe outright. The feather bedding, in this context, is seen more as a part of a "Long Con," if you will. You play nice with the important players trying to influence you now so that later on you can cash in when you take your own job at one of the K street firms. All very neat, tidy and efficient.
In any case, though, do read the article, and miss Zephyr's book, if you get the chance. It is always helpful to know how things came to be the way they are.