There is a noxious parasite like affliction affecting many in the nation’s capital and has been for some time. [i] It appears to affect a person’s integrity and it can easily lead to corruption and its legality is questionable. [ii] Lobbyism is the name of this foul infestation. The lobbyist uses bribery to appeal to the greed, pride and ego of the elected. Many elected officials (former attorneys) morph into this parasite following their congressional term. Most of them are especially skilled in mendacity. This new career further enhances their already sizeable pensions. The taxpayer foots the pension, the health plan and gets deprived of any real influence with their elected official.
What is a lobbyist? A lobbyist is a paid agent whose profession is to influence governmental decisions. “The term originated in the United States of the 1830s, when representatives of interest groups tended to congregate in the lobbies of Congress and state legislatures.” [iii]
Elected officials are, though technically representatives of their constituents spend more time with lobbyists. In fact, lobbyists sometimes actually draft legislation. Officials respond to the needs of the lobbyists more than the needs of the people who put them into office. Lobbying presents a great potential for corruption, especially bribery of officials. Therefore, regulations have been instituted which require registration of all individuals seeking to influence legislation.
“Organizations such as corporations, financial institutions, labor unions, professional associations, educational groups, medical interests, farm alliances, and various public interest and social issue groups like Common Cause, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the National Rifle Association, and the National Coalition for the Homeless maintain permanent lobbies in Washington and in state capitals to protect and further their interests. Lobbyists often deal directly with governmental decision makers, supplying technical information, making political threats or promises, and supplying friendship, entertainment, and other favors. Their indirect methods include the use of the mass media and mailing and telephone campaigns (some purporting to come from the “grass roots”) and the organization of campaign funding vehicles known as political action committees (PACs).” [iv]
Former Democratic U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle is currently a special policy adviser to lawyer/lobbying firm of Alston & Bird in their legislative and public policy group. “Lawyer-lobbyists frequently hide behind the cloak of lawyer-client privilege so that they are not easily identifiable as lobbyists.” [v] He is also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. His lengthy experience in congress will surely come in handy as a consultant. His wife, Linda Hall Daschle, is a high-powered but controversial lobbyist.
“For instance, among Linda Daschle's clients is American Airlines, which has had six fatal crashes since 1994 (not even including the World Trade Center flights). The airline has incurred thousands of dollars in federal fines for a host of safety violations, and its employees have been caught in embarrassing drug smuggling stings. Even as its planes have crashed, American has lobbied for years to water down safety and security regulations that might have helped foil the World Trade Center attacks. Yet thanks in part to lobbying efforts by Daschle---and support from her husband---American Airlines got a free pass in the recent airline bailout bill, escaping most legal liability for the hijackings and getting $583 million in cash grants---taxpayer money it will never have to repay.” [vi]
“Mrs. Daschle insists that she has consulted with congressional ethics staff and is in violation of no rules by lobbying on behalf of American and other clients. She voluntarily recuses herself from any business with the Senate, which she strictly does not lobby. And she can point to her record as a former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deputy administrator when she says that her clients hire her for her aviation expertise---a field in which she was working long before she married the senator.” [vii] Just the fact that she is married to a now former Senator assures conflict of interest influence and is an insult to the intelligence of every American, if they were even informed about the collusion and the specific details.
“Once considered a distasteful post-government vocation, big-bucks lobbying is luring nearly half of all lawmakers who return to the private sector when they leave Congress, according to a forthcoming study by Public Citizen's Congress Watch.” [viii]
The voters always lose whenever any influence hawker returns to government service after being a heavy-duty stock holding corporate leader. The moniker of lobbyist isn’t necessary to market influence to enrich one’s own portfolio. An example of influence peddling is “Donald Rumsfeld, who was a former member of the U.S. Congress and the Chief of Staff in the Gerald Ford Administration, was hired as G. D. Searle's President. Attorney James Turner, Esq. alleged that G. D. Searle hired Rumsfeld to handle the aspartame approval difficulties as a ‘legal problem rather than a scientific problem.’ (U.S. Senate 1987)” [ix]
Searle had failed to get FDA approval for 16 years because they felt that the company’s product was completely unsafe to the point that they wanted the Searle indicted for fraud. “On January 10, 1977, FDA Chief Counsel Richard Merrill recommended to U.S. Attorney Sam Skinner in a 33-page letter detailing violations of the law that a grand jury be set up to investigate G. D. Searle. In the letter, Merrill stated:
“We request that your office convene a Grand Jury investigation into apparent violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 331(e), and the False Reports to the Government Act, 18 U.S.C. 1001, by G. D. Searle and Company and three of its responsible officers for their willful and knowing failure to make reports to the Food and Drug Administration required by the Act, 21 U.S.C. 355(i), and for concealing material facts and making false statements in reports of animal studies conducted to establish the safety of the drug Aldactone and the food additive Aspartame.” [x]
“On January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan takes office as U.S. President, G.D. Searle reapplied for the approval of aspartame. G.D. Searle submits several new studies along with their application. It was believed that Reagan would certainly replace Jere Goyan, the FDA Commissioner.” [xi] These new studies purposely concealed the injurious results of their previous studies which obviously did not signal the horrendous health risks that would be incurred by the consumer. Quite conveniently, Goyan was replaced by the more compliant Arthur Hull Hayes.
The newly called FDA Commissioner, Arthur Hull Hayes, over-ruled an FDA Board of Inquiry that was justifiably called and a little later went to work for the PR Agency of the manufacturer, Burson-Marstaller, at a rumored $1000.00 a day, and has refused to talk to the press ever since. [xii]
“G.D. Searle president, Donald Rumsfeld's connections to the Republican party were also thought to play a part in Searle's decision to reapply for aspartame's approval on the day after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated (Gordon 1987, page 499 of US Senate 1987).” [xiii] Rumsfeld was on President Reagan’s transition team and promptly orchestrated changes within the FDA.
“According to a former G.D. Searle salesperson, Patty Wood- Allott, G.D. Searle president, Donald Rumsfeld told his sales force that, if necessary, "he would call in all his markers and that no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year." (Gordon 1987, page 499 of US Senate 1987)” [xiv] And approved it was – unfortunately for the health of every American who trusts their health and safety to elected and appointed officials. It is unconscionable that profits are preeminent over personal protections.
“Searle made Rumsfeld a very wealthy man; according to financial disclosure documents, his fortune today is estimated at between $50 million and $210 million.” [xv] While once healthy Americans often imbibe poison daily, our current Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (in charge of our troops and their use of depleted uranium) will probably never suffer any consequences for the plague of poor health caused by aspartame not only in this country but anywhere in the world that aspartame laced foods and beverages are shipped or used.
Campaign contributions were made to some Senators by Searle. In spite of public outcries over this poisonous product Congressional hearings were held up by lobbyists and their money and influence. The first hearing was in 1985, and Senator Hatch and others were paid by Monsanto. So the bill by Senator Metzenbaum never got out of committee. This bill would have put a moratorium on aspartame. [xvi] Too bad – who knows the number of cancer deaths caused by greed and malfeasance?
Apparently, according to the statistics, Congressmen can be easily influenced – it is just a matter of settling on the price, perks or the repaying of pork barrel votes. From 2000 to June 2005 the number of registered lobbyists in Washington had doubled to 34,750 with a starting salary is about $300,000 per year. According to experts there appears to be three reasons for this metastasizing:
1. The pro big-business mentality of the current administration.
2. Accelerated growth of government since 2000 with a Republican congress.
3. A wide acceptance among corporations willing to pay big money in order to earn more money. [xvii]
Wikipedia defines bribery as:
“Bribery is a crime implying a sum or gift given alters the behavior of a person in ways not consistent with the duties of that person. It is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions as an official or other person in discharge of a public or legal duty. The bribe is the gift bestowed to influence the receiver’s conduct. It may be any money, good, right in action, property, preferment, privilege, emolument, object of value, advantage, or any promise or undertaking to induce or influence the action, vote, or influence of a person in an official or public capacity.
It is a form of political corruption and is generally considered unethical. In most jurisdictions it is illegal, or at least cause for sanctions from one's employer or professional organization.” [xviii] Bribery and lobbyism go hand in hand.
We are currently experiencing a tip of the iceberg lobbyist scandal involving just one token lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. However, he did not work in a vacuum. “This is not a lobbying scandal. It's a betrayal-of-public-trust scandal. Lobbyists have no power, no influence, until a public servant gives them power. That’s what DeLay and the K Street Project was all about. What they did was to set up a system by which lobbyists who proved their loyalty in various ways, such as taking DeLay and Ney on golf trips to Scotland, could be transformed from supplicants to full partners in government.” [xix]
“Abramoff did lots of terrible things and should go to jail, but never forget that every single criminal and unethical act of his was made possible by a public official. On his own – Abramoff had no power.” [xx] One of the entities that Abramoff represented, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands engaged Chinese national slave labor to work in Saipan, a U.S. territorial possession. They slave in veritable sweat shops making items for prestigious companies like Polo, Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne and others – all labeled “Made in the USA. These companies are exempt from regulations and taxes. These impoverished women work 80 hours a week, are not allowed to marry and if they become pregnant, they must abort their child. [xxi] This entire scenario is an abomination and blight on our government officials who claim moral superiority over other countries who engage in similar practices. We claim to lead the world in so many areas. Bush said in the State of the Union: “Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal -- we seek the end of tyranny in our world.” [xxii] Slave labor and forced abortion for business aggrandizement is a form of tyranny – how hypocritical!
America claims to lead the world in instituting laws regarding the bribery of foreign officials. Again, this is an example of our hypocrisy in as much as we cannot contain the hot bed of corruption and bribery in our own government yet we claim to take the lead in policing the world.
In December of 1997 the U.S. Department of State joined with thirty-four other countries in instituting laws regarding bribery of foreign public officials in international business. There has been a yearly meeting since that date to examine the progress in combating this evil practice under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This was wholly approved by the Senate on 31 July 1998 and entered into force 15 February 1999. The associated document, produced by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs is entitled: Battling International Bribery.
Apparently, there are some countries, including our own, that have not followed the OECD conventions against the blight of bribery and “the U.S. Government and the OECD Working Group on Bribery are continuing to follow up on these problems with the countries concerned during the enforcement review process. In addition, the U.S. Government may, if circumstances warrant, continue to engage countries bilaterally to encourage progress to implement their commitments under the convention.” [xxiii] So is our government more concerned with the international issues and lobbyism is merely a given and excusable practice in our country? Or is this another one of those hypocritical situations where we try to convince other countries of our moral superiority while we self-righteously counsel them and cover our own indiscretions?
Following are some enlightening paragraphs from the document: “The U.S. Government continues to believe that raising public awareness of anti-bribery laws is a very important element in making the convention a success. This includes informing the relevant prosecutorial authorities of the new tools they have to prosecute corruption, as well as counseling businesses and the general public about, anti-bribery laws.” [xxiv]
“The U.S. Government believes that the question of expanding the convention’s coverage to include bribes to political parties and candidates merits the attention of the Working Group.” [xxv]
“Corruption poses a serious threat to collective security, democracy and sustainable development. It imposes enormous costs on countries and destabilizes critical rule of law institutions and market-based systems that underpin democracy throughout the world. Corruption distorts public policy, leads to the misallocation of resources, increases budgetary costs to governments, undermines the rule of law and particularly hurts the poor. It robs nations of their human and natural resources and is a tax on development. Corruption often facilitates criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and money laundering, and can fuel transnational crimes and social/political conflict that threaten regional as well as global security.” [xxvi]
“In many nations, poverty remains chronic and desperate. Half the world’s people still live on less than $2 a day. This divide between wealth and poverty, between opportunity and misery, is far more than a challenge to our compassion. Persistent poverty and oppression can spread despair across an entire nation, and they can turn nations of great potential into the recruiting grounds of terrorists.” [xxvii] This certainly raises the question of just who is lobbying Congress on behalf of all the illegals cascading through our open borders. Our current situation is a recruiting and breeding ground for terrorists. And under this situation, our own country will digress into a third world country with most of us living in poverty and oppression. Congress is ignoring the border situation for some reason – could it possibly be MONEY!!!
“The U.S. Government remains firm in its commitment to reduce and eliminate the bribery of foreign public officials.” [xxviii] It is just our own public officials we have trouble supervising. Would that be akin to asking the mafia to reign in crime? While they have started a “test case” investigation, it should not stop until all the rot and infestation in Washington is rooted out.
Ban Bribery Now, 1994
© Deanna Spingola 2006 - All rights reserved
Deanna Spingola's articles
are copyrighted but may be republished, reposted, or emailed. However, the
person or organization must not
charge for subscriptions or advertising. The article must be copied intact and
full credit given. Deanna's web site address must also be included.