Careful What You Wish For

Bob Livingston, former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, wrote the following letter to the editor of Business Week on the subject of the influence of money in politics:

As a member of Congress for 22 years and a lobbyist for the last seven, I take issue with the conclusions in “Shakedown on K street” that lobbyist “money is vacuumed up to Capitol Hill by demands from members of Congress” (News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 20). Do these things happen? Yes. Are they the norm? No. The 11,500 lobbyists work for every conceivable cause in D.C. A few pay to play, but most do not. Most give because a lawmaker supports his or her view of the world or the client’s views. There is no quid pro quo.
Lobbyists are advocates in a complex system of legislation, just as lawyers are in the world of the courthouse. The true irony is that virtually all money raised in politics is not for the politician’s personal benefit, for if it is shown to be so, he or she goes to jail. No, the vast portion of money in politics goes to the press so the politician can get his message out, thereby enabling the press to pay their airheads unreasonable sums of money and condemn the supporters of politicians for supplying the cash in the first place. If you want to take money out of politics, suggest that the press carry political messages for free.
Robert Livingston
Member of Congress (Retired)

It would be fun to introduce legislation to that effect, and then gauge the press’ enthusiasm for taking the money out of politics.


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