Skip to comments.Why lawmakers love lobbyists and hate 'outside groups'
Posted on 12/17/2013 4:04:08 PM PST by markomalley
Politicians like to say they hate lobbyists. This is false. They love lobbyists and they love being lobbied. What politicians hate is being lobbied in public, in earshot of their constituents.
Keeping disagreements and policy debates behind the closed doors of Capitol Hill and K Street animates Democrats' fight for campaign finance restrictions. But it also lies at the heart of the Republican leadership's war with Tea Party groups.
Take Byron Dorgan, the former Democratic senator. In his 2006 book he complained of legions of lobbyists bringing barrels of political donations. Dorgan's wife, Kimberly, has since 1999 been a lobbyist for the life insurance industry. At least five of Dorgan's former chiefs of staff are lobbyists. Lobbyists were his second largest source of campaign contributions, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. And today, Dorgan is the co-chair of the government relations practice at lobbying firm Arent Fox.
Senators and congressman like lobbyists for many reasons. They like being flattered and feted by lobbyists. Lobbyists work as volunteer fundraisers, and they overwhelmingly support incumbents. Also, lobbyists hire congressional staffers (who then raise money for their former Hill bosses), and eventually the lobbyists hire lawmakers to be lobbyists.
Most importantly, if lobbyists argue with lawmakers, they do so discreetly. Thats what annoys lawmakers so much about outside groups they make the fight public. Nothing upsets an incumbent more than activists going behind his back and speaking directly to his constituents. Ideological groups and business interests they should have to run the K Street gauntlet, lawmakers think.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is the Senate Democrats' top fundraiser, and not coincidentally, he also leads the Democrats' charge in cracking down on outside group spending.
Schumer knows how to play the K Street game. Right after Democrats took over the Senate in January 2007, Schumer called together top hedge fund executives and, the New York Times reported, told them, "If you want Washington to work with you, you had better work better with one another." Translation: Start lobbying for real. Hedge funds responded, and Schumer and Senate Democrats were the prime beneficiaries. Within a few months, Schumers banking staffer left for K Street, picked up a bunch of hedge fund clients and started raising cash for Schumer.
You can see why Schumer and friends prefer it when businesses run the K Street gauntlet, as opposed to the messier alternative: businesses communicating with constituents in order to whip the lawmaker.
But the GOP leadership has its own problems with outside groups. Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee at times utilize the unseemly Tea Party whip operation: These first-termers stake out a position and work with Beltway organizations like Heritage Action or the National Rifle Association, who then blast their members in the home state or district of wavering Republicans. The result is uncomfortable for the wavering Republicans -- hundreds of phone calls, thousands of emails, dozens of angry neighbors at local town hall meetings.
After the government shutdown, Sen. John McCain -- a champion of campaign finance restrictions and scold of outside groups -- told a local radio station, I can tell you what is resented amongst Republicans, and that is that Sen. Cruz and Sen. Lee are raising money for an organization that is running ads attacking Republican senators.
Conservative Senate staffers tell me that in closed-door GOP meetings, senators have unloaded on Cruz and Lee for associating with groups that run ads in their home states.
Cruz, in his filibuster that preceded the shutdown, said, We hear more complaints about I don't like all the phone calls I am getting from my constituents' than we do about Obamacare. It is apparently an imposition on some members of this body for their constituents to pick up the phone and express their views. It is viewed as somehow illegitimate.
Party insiders say the problem isnt constituent communication, but that the communication is misleading. Do the outside groups mislead constituents? This is a judgment call. I was not alone in thinking a government shutdown would never defund Obamacare, but Cruz and his allies in the outside groups promised they could.
Groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund certainly attack their GOP targets as harshly and uncharitably as the parties generally attack one another. Is this out of bounds?
Incumbents can deal with closed-door arguments. Campaign-style attacks can become demagoguery. But is constraining businesses and ideological groups within the K Street gauntlet really a better way to debate?
Outside groups don’t arrive in DC with 55 gallon drums of “palm oil”.
That is easy. Lobbyists give politicians tons of money and pay for “informational getaways” where they live high on the hog while lobbyists foot the bill for their airfare, fancy hotels, expensive golf outings, and gourmet dinners all the while telling the politicians how smart and good looking they are.
“Here’s what youse is to do and here’s youse campaign contribution.”
Politicians like things simple.
Follow the money.
Something like "If you can't take their money, drink their liquor, and screw their women, and still vote against them, you don't belong in Washington".
I think congressmen should be sequestered in their home districts and states most of the time. Good luck getting the big money to spend a lot of time in John Conyer’s district.
I’ll take “Follow The Money” for $400 please, Alex...
The polititians of the GOPe want the following from us conservatives: Our votes, our work leading up to elections like calling the public that enjoys being called so much, working at the polls in the heat of the primary election and the cold rain of the general election, and knocking on doors in the heat, cold, or rain depending on the day. They want our contributions all year.
What their wise men don’t want is any constructive suggestions or comments about how their strategies are falling flat as they have been with great regularity since the Reagan era.
Cruz never “promised” he could defund Obamacare. He said from the beginning “if” the American people overwhelmed Congress with calls and e-mails demanding it, then they could do it. He never said a minority of congress could do it on their own without public pressure to sway others.
....Groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund certainly attack their GOP targets as harshly and uncharitably as the parties generally attack one another. Is this out of bounds?.....
Not at all.
It wasn’t the American people that stopped the defund effort.
It was Boehner.
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. (Harry Truman)
Uniparty news again
The GOPe attacks conservatives and they complain when the conservatives fight back
This is example number one why things never change in Washington.
Too many Pies to stick your hand in and grab cash out of.
Such is how a Uniparty is formed.
Elected representatives for the most part see themselves as America’s royalty - especially senators.
The Lobbyists come to them bearing gifts.
“Outside Groups”, like the citizens who vote and taxpayers who pay their salaries have strange and irritating misconceptions about about who works for whom.
“Outside groups dont arrive in DC with 55 gallon drums of palm oil”
True34, they arrive with old nasty, tattered piece of parchment paper called The U.S. Constitution, and a baseball bat, signed by their constituents, to be apllied with great vigor!”
That was "big daddy" Jesse Unruh talking about Sacramento.
Lobbyists make Congressmen rich.
The flip side is that professional lobbyist are often lawyers, former government managers or analysts, or industry experts, who know what they are talking about, and can offer real input on the real-life application of pieces of a proposed law, or the entire matter being discussed.
“outside groups” of concerned citizens are often (but not always) more “real”, and actually care about their issue, and want to do what they think in right. But, they often don't know what they are talking about.
Now, would your rather take your advice from someone who know what they are talking about, but is advocating their own side, or someone who doesn't know what they are talking about but is genuine. Who would you rather argue with? Making campaign support (money, press, get-out-the-vote drives) the tie breaker, makes some sense, even if you don't really like it.
Disclaimer, it's been more than 5, but less then 10 years since I've “lobbied” or been lobbied.
“Why lawmakers love lobbyists and hate ‘outside groups’”
It’s obvious why, no need to write an article about it.