By Dr. Mercola
If you’re a corporation or a lobbyist and you want to “buy” a member of Congress, one common and effective way to do so is by secretly promising them a high-paying job once they leave office.
Since such deals are not made public, legislators can pass laws or create special tax cuts that benefit their future employer with little or no accountability. Politicians do not have to disclose job negotiations while in office, and also do not have to disclose how much they’re paid after leaving office.
But it is probably not a coincidence that former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) spent his last year in office fighting reforms to the derivatives marketplace, and then upon leaving office joined that board a derivatives trading company and became an “advisor” to Goldman Sachs.
According to the featured article in Republic Reporti :
”Our research effort uncovered the partial salaries of 12 lawmakers-turned-lobbyists. Republic Report’s investigation found that lawmakers increased their salary by 1,452 percent on average from the last year they were in office to the latest publicly available disclosure”.
Is it Bribery, or Legitimate Career Change?
A previous Republic Report highlights the questionable job search of another Congressman about to quit Congress. Heath Shuler (D-NC) is reportedly already talking to different lobbying firms, assessing his options. According to Republic Reportii :
“One of the organizations taking a serious look at Shuler is The Majority Group, a lobby shop founded by former Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), according to sources. Rob Ellsworth, a former legislative assistant of Shuler’s, is a co-founder of the boutique lobbying firm.
The Majority Group… currently represents the beef industry, a foreclosure servicing company called FCI Lender Services, as well as bank holding companies with business in health, life, and real estate insurance. And while Shuler meets with lobbying firms openly interested in hiring him, the Congressman continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the laws we all live under… [L]awmakers like Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK), and many others are [also] possible recruits for K street.
While some call this phenomenon the “revolving door,” the line between casual bribery and simply changing careers is incredibly fuzzy. How do we know that lawmakers like Shuler aren’t influenced by the lobbying firms already promising them cash?”
Bribery – The Sordid Details of How the U.S. Political System Works
After viewing the shocking 60-Minute expose about the former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, it’s quite clear that the entire system runs on bribery, in one form or another. It is fatally flawed, and cannot be fixed through reform efforts, because those creating the reforms are the very people affected by them.
Jack Abramoff has been characterized as the most notorious and crooked lobbyist of our time, and is the classic example of brazen corruption and influence-peddling. In his interview with Leslie Stahl for 60-Minutes, he details how he used corporation’s money to buy powerful friends and influence legislation. He was a master at showering gifts on lawmakers in the 1990s in return for their votes on legislation. He was so good at it, he took home 20 million dollars a year!
It all came crashing down five years ago when he plead guilty to corrupting public officials, tax evasion, and fraud, and served three and a half years in a federal prison. If you haven’t seen this interview, I urge you to take the time to watch it now. It’s a dramatic eye-opener to the reality of our political system.
How Large Corporations Manipulate the System for Their Benefit
Abramoff was able to freely share the specific details of how he manipulated the political system because he had already served prison time for his crimes. Otherwise, we would never have become privy to these first-hand accounts of how it’s really done. He believes that most Congressmen actually do not feel they’re being bought and are able to rationalize their actions, and the system as a whole, in their own minds… And that, according to Abramoff, is a mindset that is nurtured by lobbyists, as it is exactly the way lobbyists want them to feel.
This is similar to doctors; most of whom do not believe they’re being unduly influenced by their pharmaceutical representatives. Little do they know these reps are actually trained in highly sophisticated brainwashing techniques. They are meticulously taught to spot the weaknesses of every client.
Doctors usually believe they are immune to persuasion tactics, and drug reps know just how important it is to maintain that illusion. Not only are reps trained to assess their personality, practice style, and medical preferences, they’re also instructed to sniff out personal information, like the names of family members, birthdays, and family interests — as well as the physician’s professional interests and recreational pursuits. All of this information goes into a database for future reference. When the time comes to devise an “incentive” — say a dinner, sporting event, or membership — it is custom tailored to suit the prey.
It’s all about establishing personal rapport. Oftentimes doctors mistake the reps’ cleverly disguised interest in them as personal friendship. This is exactly how it’s designed to work.
The same appears to be true for many lobbyists. Abramoff, for example, admits to having had “very strong personal relationships with a lot of his staff,” referring to staff members of Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
The Ace in the Sleeve…
Abramoff would lavish certain Congressmen and Senators with access to private jets and junkets to the world’s great golf destinations, free meals at his own upscale Washington restaurant, and he spent over a million dollars a year to give them access to the best tickets to all the areas’ sporting events. In response to Leslie Stahl’s question, “Was all of that legal?” he replies:
“We would certainly try to make the activity legal, if we could. At times, we didn’t care.”
However, lavish getaways and sports events aside, Abramoff’s greatest, most effective “weapon” was the promise of a future job at a huge pay increase. In his case, he would typically focus on a Congressman’s Chief of Staff; offering him or her a position after finishing working for the Congressman. This allowed him inside access, and the ability to control the Congressman’s votes on legislation. In his own words:
“I would say… to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them… that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re going to do. And not only that, they’re going to think of things we can’t think of to do!”
His influence was so pervasive that he alone controlled about a quarter of the U.S. Congress! Sadly, he is not alone in his corrupt and criminal behavior, and that’s largely why we’re in the mess we’re in. As of last year, there were 12,654 registered lobbyists in the U.S.iii That’s a lot of people working to influence politicians in favor of their clients…
Private Industries Control the Political System
It is a well-documented fact that the drug companies have the largest political lobbying organizationsiv . They are some of the most clever marketers on the planet, and know exactly how to leverage their resources by bribing politicians to give them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. One primary technique is by creating legislation that devastates their competition. This is typically implemented through federal regulatory agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Another political powerhouse is the biotech industry, led by Monsanto.
While many other nations are banning genetically engineered foods, and/or require such foods to be labeled, Monsanto’s reach into the very heart of the U.S. regulatory agencies and political offices has ensured that most Americans are completely unaware of what they’re eating, or the many dangers of genetically engineered crops to both the environment and animal- and human health.
Contrary to other nations, certain U.S. states are actually passing legislation that protects the use of genetically engineered seeds and allows for their unabated expansion! At present, no less than 14 states have passed such pro-industry legislation. Michigan’s Senate Bill 777v , if passed, would make that 15. The Michigan bill would prevent anti-GMO laws, and would remove the any authority that local governments may have to “adopt and enforce ordinances that prohibit or regulate the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower or forest tree seeds.”
Bills like these are essentially bought and paid for through the millions of dollars Monsanto and other biotech companies spend lobbying the U.S. government each year. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government — a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter. Monsanto is a perfect example of the revolving door between industry, political offices, and various regulatory agencies. There can no longer be any doubt that Monsanto’s success is largely due to the fact that an ever growing list of former Monsanto employees are now in positions of power within the federal government.
Can the System Be Saved?
Most people are under the impression that political corruption only involves somebody handing over a check and getting a favor. But as the first-hand account of Abramoff reveals, that’s usually not the case. The foundation of the corruption, really, is all about bribery that involves giving a gift to somebody who makes a decision on behalf of the public. At the end of the day, that’s really what bribery is.
And while there have been efforts at reform, the system has never actually changed and continues to this day because the people who make the reforms are the people within the system itself. According to Abramoff:
“There’s an arrogance on the part of lobbyists—and certainly there was on the part of me and my team—that no matter what they come up with, we’re smarter than they are, and we’ll overcome it. We’ll just find another way through. That’s all.”
“Reform efforts” are in actuality little more than fake efforts to appease the critics. For example, the system forbids lobbyists from taking a Congressman to sit-down lunch for 25 dollars, but allows them to take him to a fundraising lunch—where food is served standing up—and give him 25,000 dollars extra to boot. So despite “reform efforts” to stop lobbyists from plying politicians with free meals, they still have all the same access, and all the same interaction with that Congressman—they just have to stand up to do it…
“Our system is flawed, and has to be fixed,” Abramoff says. “Human beings populate our system, and human beings are weak.”
According to Abramoff, the only solution is to prohibit members of Congress and their staff from ever becoming lobbyists in Washington. I agree. I believe if you make the choice to serve the public with public service, then serve the public, not yourself.
Whether or not we can make that happen is another question…
The good news is that increasing numbers of people are now waking up to these harsh realities, and you, being among those who are informed, can help share this knowledge with others. Remember that the definition of fascism is a government system that has complete power in regimenting all industry and forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism. What we have here is a hybrid—a sort of corporate fascism, where industry has powerful control over government, and forcefully suppresses anything that threatens their monopoly on profits.
But, this doesn’t mean that you have to buy into their agenda.
From my perspective, two of the top industries running the U.S. at present are the pharmaceutical- and biotech industries. But they can still be stopped. The goal is to reach a critical mass of people who refuse unnecessarily dangerous drugs and genetically engineered foods, and who demand that our public servants serve the public rather than corporate interests. I believe that can and will serve as a powerful stimulus to generate authentic change. More than 1.6 million people currently receive this newsletter, and together we can make a huge difference.
- i Republic Report March 14, 2012
- ii Republic Report March 12, 2012
- iii OpenSecrets.org Lobbying Database
- iv OpenSecrets.org Top Industries
- v The Michigan Citizen