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You have probably heard the word ‘lobbyist’ angrily muttered on TV or used in a scathing post on social media. Lobbyists, especially ones backed by economic elites and/or corporations, have considerable influence on U.S. politics.
Professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page conducted a joint study that suggests special interest lobbying further empowers elite groups and often determines legislation that benefits the powerful gets passed. Gilens and Page write, “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
Gilens and Page’s study raises serious concerns about whether the U.S. government truly serves most Americans. In this article, the Zero Theft Movement will cover what a lobbyist does and just how much influence they appear to have in U.S. politics.
What is a Lobbyist?
Lobbyist refers to a person who tries to influence public officials to legislate or regulate in favor of the corporation, industry, or special interest group that hired the lobbyist.
Lobbyists primarily try to find success in the legislative realm, providing lawmakers with all kinds of data to reform existing bills or lead to new ones being drafted. Sometimes a lobbyist will even draft or amend legislation for lawmakers.
While a lobbyist cannot legally pay a legislator to vote or create a law (that would be bribery), many loopholes and work-arounds exist.
The Zero Theft community has thoroughly researched potentially rigged areas of the economy and has come up with an accurate estimate of how much is being ripped off from the public. Take part in creating an economy that gives you the value you deserve.
Over the previous decade or so, over three billion dollars were spent on lobbying annually. You’d think it would take more money to really influence politicians, but perhaps that isn’t so much the case.
According to a year-long study conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization, “Between 2007 and 2012, 200 of America’s most politically active corporations spent a combined $5.8 billion on federal lobbying and campaign contributions…[however] what they gave pales compared to what those same corporations got: $4.4 trillion in federal business and support.”
From the corporate perspective, finding ways to maximize profits is expected. It’s even necessary to survive and thrive. But the problem becomes when corporations can influence politicians with lobbyists and vast sums of money. Businesses have the power to make legislation as they please, often leading to unethical profits on top of what they would get in fair and free market conditions.
Who gets a job as a Lobbyist?
Anybody can lobby a politician, but that doesn’t mean anyone would hire you to work as a lobbyist.
Typically, lobbyists are people with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the federal government and have built connections with those in office. That reduces the field to legislators, Congressional staffers, attorneys, policy experts, etc.
To some, this creates a major concern of regulatory capture, a.k.a the ‘revolving door.’ This is a phenomenon present in democracies around the world, where lobbyists essentially switch jobs with government officials and vice-versa. In essence, business has found its way into the political sphere. The fear is that corporate and moneyed interests take precedence over public interests.
These worries ring especially true when you find out that lobbyists regularly influence government officials and staffers by offering high-paying jobs at their firms or their clients. According to a report by The Nation, Congressmembers who later become lobbyists receive, on average, a 1,452% raise. That’s a lot of money on the line in exchange for a few votes in the industry’s favor.
We did mention that loopholes exist, right?
Do Lobbyists really write laws?
To give some context, the 2008 financial crisis allegedly occurred due to big players in the financial industry allegedly making extremely risky but insured investments. When the investments inevitably failed, the insurance companies did not have the funds to pay it back. This caused the economy to nearly collapse. The Federal Reserve intervened (i.e. operated as the lender of last resort) and bailed out big banks.
In order to prevent another crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Consumer Protection Act in 2011. One of the Bill’s major provisions (from Section 716) was called the ‘swap push out rule.’ It required that banks ‘push out’ some derivatives trading into separate units that they will not receive federal assistance (i.e. taxpayer money) for in the event of failure.
In Congress’ 2014 omnibus budget deal, however, the swap push out rule was repealed. Meaning Congress sneakily repealed a regulation preventing Fed-funded bailouts of big banks that engage in risky derivatives trading.
The New York Times reported 70 of the 85 lines in the language that eliminated the swap push out rule were taken from model legislation allegedly written by Citigroup lobbyists.
Citigroup is a multinational banking corporation that received billions in federal aid during the 2008 financial crisis. Reuters published an article on the bailout, stating: “taxpayers are now on the hook for nearly $250 billion in potential losses in the $306 billion portfolio, including commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans, and other assets, representing 15 percent of Citigroup’s $2.05 trillion balance sheet.”
The NYT report goes on to claim “two crucial paragraphs, prepared by Citigroup in conjunction with other Wall Street banks, were copied nearly word for word.” Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the documents.
Anti-corruption group RepresentUs has alleged that “Members of the House received $22.4 million from interest groups that support the bill — that’s 5.8 times more than they received from interest groups opposed. Wall Street has also spent over $73 million on lobbying in 2013 alone. To top it all off, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee went on a lavish ski vacation with prominent Wall Street lobbyists just six weeks after his appointment.”
Don’t forget a lobbyist will play both parties, Republican and Democrat. Politicians in both parties are guilty of choosing corporations over the public.
So why is Lobbying Legal? The First Amendment and the Lobbying Disclosure Act
You might be wondering why we don’t make lobbying illegal.
Simply put, the Constitution would not allow it. And in reality, there are reasons for that.
Lobbying by an individual or professional lobbyist group is protected under the First Amendment. Why? The Constitution counts lobbying as free speech and a form of petitioning the government for the redress of grievances.
You and everyone else should have the freedom to voice your opinions and demand change in a civil manner, right?
Furthermore, the government passed the Lobbying Disclosure Act in 1995. The Bill defines what constitutes a lobbyist and establishes some regulations to create some degree of transparency. While protecting First Amendment rights, the Lobbying Disclosure Act enables the public to evaluate any undue influences on legislative decisions. Whether it’s all that effective in regards to combating those ‘undue influences’ is another matter…
Each state has its own particular definitions of ‘lobbying’ and ‘lobbyist.’ Check them out here.
The government deemed the failing hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) ‘too big to fail.’ The Federal Reserve created a $3.65 billion loan fund to bail the company out. LTCM could survive the market volatility and liquidate in early 2000. But did the Fed truly have to bail out the hedge fund with taxpayer money? Or could global financial markets have rebounded without the intervention? Find out what your fellow citizens have discovered…
Lobbyists and the Rigged Economy
When you consider what lobbying is purely by its definition, it appears much less problematic than it is in practice. ‘Lobbying’ simply means arguing for or against a position to an elected official.
The issue arises when we consider the how. How do corporations, elites, and lobbyists persuade the government to legislate in their favor? Money, favors, expensive gifts, lucrative job offers maybe? All things the average person cannot offer to politicians.
How far have we come that, according to Gilens and Page, the opinions of most Americans make little to no difference to elected officials, the people who are meant to be serving us? Things won’t change if we don’t start stepping up and fighting for what we deserve.
And that begins right now, with the Zero Theft Movement.
The Zero Theft Movement seeks to end the corporatocracy, rid moneyed interests from politics, and eliminate the rigged economy. Our mission is, and will continue to be, on waking up 330 million American citizens to the truth. That we can all profit from an ethical, powerful, and safe economy if we stand up against the crony capitalists and lobbyists who rig the system.
The public has spoken! See how much the rigged economy is ripping off from you.
Explore the Problem Hierarchy
We need to identify, vote on, and eliminate potentially rigged behavior across the economy.
Start by informing yourself on the following areas in the healthcare sector:
Alternatively, find areas that might interest you more:
Serve your fellow citizens as a citizen investigator
The success of our movement rests in your hands, the leaders willing to dedicate time to conduct investigations into potentially rigged areas of the economy. Lead the movement and help create an ethical economy.
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Commitment to nonpartisanship
The rigged layer causes all of us to suffer, regardless of our political allegiances. If wish to eliminate rigged economy theft, we have to set aside our differences and band together against crony capitalists and corrupt officials.
An educated public is an empowered public.
We regularly publish educational articles on ZeroTheft.net, just like this one on lobbyists. They teach you all about the rigged layer of the economy in short, digestible pieces.
The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.
Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since Congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.