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The Problem Isn’t The Lobbyists

A few reporters are onto some lobbyist connections in the Obama camp. We saw some of this earlier in the race when his “I don’t take oil company money” was shown to be less than accurate. But this whole argument, I’d say, is off base. (As is the effort by the McCain camp to purge its own lobbyists for the reasons discussed here.) It’s not as if lobbying is illegal. Last time I checked, it was protected by the First Amendment. The problem is politicians who cave into the special interests promoted by lobbyists.  David Brooks notes, speaking of the atrocious $307 billion farm bill,

Barack Obama talks about taking on the special interests. This farm bill would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. But Obama supported the bill, just as he supported the 2005 energy bill that was a Christmas tree for the oil and gas industries. Obama’s vote may help him win Iowa, but it will lead to higher global food prices and more hunger in Africa. Moreover, it raises questions about how exactly he expects to bring about the change that he promises.

So rather than count lobbyists, perhaps we should start counting dollars spent on boondoggles. This is a more meaningful measure of a candidates’ willingness to resist lobbyists’ invitations to spend the taxpayers dollars and override the public interest. And  it–rather than a neverending game of “spot the lobbyist”–might be a more fruitful exercise as we look for the next president.


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