Dark side in Washington

Kyler Vernon, Writer ; Photographer

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There is a dark side in Washington, its called lobbying. It’s where all the dirty work happens; it’s where companies hire people to influence government in their favor. According to the Statistics portal, “Corporations spend more than $3 billion a year to rally their legislative pull.” It’s a number that has been growing since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined congressional budget in the early 2000s.

Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be in every corner of government, all the time. A majority of the time the actual text of legislation is often written with advice from the lobbyists, on behalf of their sponsors (legislators). That sounds slimy, but remember that politicians aren’t experts. They’re paid to be politicians, not geniuses who know everything about the banking, environment, manufacturing, and trade industries.

To get a grip on what this type of politics looked like we must go back to the Gilded Age to find business in such a profound political position in American politics. Very few large businesses had their own Washington lobbyists prior to the 1970s. Yet they still had influential people equivalent to the modern day lobbyist. Sam Ward was the one of the first big lobbyist figures in Washington; he was able to sway politics through simple dinners and pleasant meetings.

Anybody who converses with a politician for more than a few minutes is, almost by definition, a lobbyist. If you want to have more than a two minute meeting with a politician, you are required by law to register as a lobbyist. The introduction of lobbying was designed as a way to limit the opportunities for bribery. With lobbying registration, we know who’s meeting with the politicians, and we know how much they’re paid to do it.

In order to get the job done, lobbyists must gain sound connection with their clients to shape their view of politics into a way to grow the company through positive legislation.

To get clients to invest fully in politics, lobbyist firms must convince companies that Washington could be a way to profits. They had to convince them that lobbying was not just about keeping the government out of business; it could also be about using government as a tool.

Now handing $100,000 from a company directly to a congressman is an illegal bribe. With a lobbyist you can take the same $100,000; hold a fundraiser for the congressman’s next campaign cycle, and then the lobbyist can hand a legal check to the legislator in hopes to sway his or her vote. According to the website represent.us, 50% of senators and 42% of representatives become lobbyists after their terms in office creating a loophole for lobbying firms to offer a future job with a multi-million dollar salary to current legislators in hopes gain political leverage through a ‘I owe you’ transaction.

Though there are ways to suppress the dark side by Investing more in the government, especially Congress, which would give leading policymakers funds necessary to hire an experienced expert staff to help craft legislation, and reduce their reliance on lobbyists.