So Many Things to Fix, It’s Hard to Know Where to Start

Dump the U.S. Congress!
By David D. Kirkpatrick and editorial comment
Feb 23, 2007, 14:06

Editor’s Note: The author identifies the most obvious problem facing the people of the United States in the corporate government: corporate influence in government decision-making. He also identifies a slew of lobby groups who have Senators and House Members feeding at their troughs. We find it interesting that neither he nor NYT finds room in this analysis to identify the most powerful lobby of all: American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Here’s how Wikipedia describes APAIC:

“The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a special interest group that lobbies the United States Government in favor of maintaining a close US-Israel relationship. Describing itself as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby,” it is a mass-membership organization including both Jews and non-Jews. AIPAC was formed during the Eisenhower administration, and since then has helped increase American aid and support to Israel. In 1997, Fortune magazine asked Congressmen to rank the “25 most powerful” lobbying organizations in DC. In 2005, the National Journal did the same. Both times, AIPAC came in 2nd – ahead of, for instance, the AFL-CIO and the NRA, but behind the AARP. In 2001, it came in 4th on the Fortune list, cementing its reputation for effectiveness.”

Join us during the week of March 12 for the Encampment to Stop the War when we confront Congress and demand an immediate end to the US war on the people of Iraq. – Les Blough, Editor

Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: February 11, 2007

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — The 110th Congress opened with the passage of new rules intended to curb the influence of lobbyists by prohibiting them from treating lawmakers to meals, trips, stadium box seats or the discounted use of private jets.

But it did not take long for lawmakers to find ways to keep having lobbyist-financed fun.

In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for a catalog of outings: lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker’s honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like “Mary Poppins” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (also $2,500 for two).

The lobbyists and their employers typically end up paying for the events, but within the new rules.

Instead of picking up the lawmaker’s tab, lobbyists pay a political fund-raising committee set up by the lawmaker. In turn, the committee pays the legislator’s way.

Lobbyists and fund-raisers say such trips are becoming increasingly popular, partly as a quirky consequence of the new ethics rules.

By barring lobbyists from mingling with a lawmaker or his staff for the cost of a steak dinner, the restrictions have stirred new demand for pricier tickets to social fund-raising events.

Lobbyists say that the rules might even increase the volume of contributions flowing to Congress from K Street, where many lobbying firms have their offices.

Some lawmakers acknowledge that some fund-raising trips resemble the lobbyist-paid junkets that Congress voted to prohibit.

Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said its leaders had decided to stop holding fund-raising events for lobbyists with political action committees because of the seeming inconsistency.

So the committee canceled its annual Colorado ski weekend for lobbyists and lawmakers to raise money for the next campaign. Gone, too, is its Maryland hunting trip with Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, the avid hunter who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But other Congressional party campaign committees have not stopped their events, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s annual Nantucket weekend for donors who contribute $25,000. And individual lawmakers are still playing host to plenty of events themselves.

Read all of it here.

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