666: The Earmarks of the Devil

Lobbyists, my heart aches for thee.

The doyens of K Street fear an industry-wide crisis akin to the subprime mortgage meltdown. With Vito McVeto promising a 50% reduction in earmark spending, K Streeters face a future devoid of 12 martini lunches, strip poker games with hookers, and doling out a lil’ sumpin’, sumpin’ to their Congressional marks. Like many other things in Washington, the cesspool is so deep even the recipients of lobbyists’ largess understand someone has to go down for their corruption.

One of the last bipartisan fronts in this country is a firm belief that earmarks are all numbered 666 - the earmark of the devil. Everyone decries them while slipping down to the Government Printing Office to add a few before the printers go to work. The administration, despite their belated call for halving the number, has a long and storied history of taking lobbyists’ essential “counsel”, usually behind closed doors and with refusals to let the sun shine in. The Democrats are no better. In fact, I can’t recall a single politician ever saying, “They gave me a $35,000 campaign contribution, so I voted as they asked.” It’s always, “The $35K didn’t influence me in the least. Hey! I hear they’re handing out golf trips to the Bahamas over at the Congressional dining room!”

I’m pretty confident most of the lobbyists shouldn’t worry. I’m sure Shrub will sign off on all the Republican earmarks and sacrifice Democrats’ pork to the giant maw of politics. That’s 50% guaranteed right there. I’m equally sure Democrats and Republicans alike will find new ways to shoehorn the rest into bills as part of the funding for specific, and probably tangential, programs. It is, after all, what they do and since lobbyists actually write many laws for the lawmakers, I’m sure they’ll find a way.

There’ll certainly be a few sacrificial goats from carefully-chosen, and none too important lobbies. One must keep up appearances in the Kabuki of politics. Banking will go untouched. Ditto telcom. And, of course, how could we live without the oil companies’ “help”? It’s more likely those rabid advocates for public aquariums or independent booksellers will get the shaft. “No fishes for you,” says the Earmark Soup Nazi.

But as bad as the lobbyist situation is, you can’t blame it completely on them. It’s true we look askance at these shenanigans, but we also reward them with our support in return for a new Jello-wrestling complex in Minnesota or a bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Its just another variation of “NIMBY” - “NIMEM”, not in my earmark. Do anything you want to that other district, but hand me that rasher of bacon.

Are you listening Senator Byrd?

We’ve allowed lobbying to run away with itself. They have a defacto monopoly on power. The courts vested them with rights equal to individual citizens and they used that base to widen their footprint. At the same time, so did the politicians. Now we have a Rube Goldberg political money machine no one actually understands or can control. The problem is we desperately need reform, but it’ll have to be paid for with money printed by the lobbyists and stuffed into pols’ pockets.

Foxes guarding the hen house are never a good thing, but what are you going to do?

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

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