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Capitol Hill Roundup: Shoulda given more…

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December 8, 2008

The automotive industry must be kicking itself for being chintzy when it comes to campaign contributions to Capitol Hill lawmakers.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, campaign finance reports show that the auto industry ranks 34th on the list of most-generous industry donors. That’s way behind Wall Street, which has had far more success than the Big Three in snagging federal bailout bucks from Washington in this time of financial woe.

The reports calculate that the securities and investment industry comes in 4th on the generosity scale, followed by the insurance industry at 9th, financial firms at 10th, and commercial banks at 13th.

In all, automotive manufacturers and dealers gave just under $9 million to congressional candidates this election cycle. In contrast, the securities and investment industry alone doled out more than $58 million.


But just because its checks to candidates were relatively paltry doesn’t mean the auto industry didn’t spend mountains of money to influence Washington. In 2007 alone, the industry spent $71 million on lobbying, and GM and Ford rank among the top 20 companies in lobbying spending over the last decade.
 


Amid all the economic gloom over electronic sales this season, take a moment to celebrate, the 40th anniversary of the computer mouse. It was Dec. 9, 1968 at a computing conference in San Francisco that proto-geeks at the Stanford Research Institute publicly demo’d their mouse device, which consisted of a carved block of wood and two rubber wheels.


The Peace Corps is spreading the word about an Internet scam making the global rounds targeting animal lovers. So far, the Peace Corps says it knows of seven Americans who have fallen prey to the scammers who purport to be Peace Corps volunteers seeking warm-hearted folks to adopt puppies the volunteers "rescued" in Cameroon or another African country.

Usually, the "volunteer" promises to send the puppy to his new U.S. home once the "volunteer" receives $200 to cover half of the shipping costs. Sometimes the puppies are described as Yorkshire Terriers, other times as English bull dogs.

The Corps’ Office of Inspector General says e-mail recipients seeking to verify the "volunteer" is legit can contact the agency at oig(at)peacecorps.gov.


Advocates of granting District of Columbia residents a voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives say they think they will finally have the support needed to overcome a filibuster certain to be staged by opponents in the Senate.

In 2007, legislation to give D.C. a House seat died in the Senate after falling three votes short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster.

But the November election ousted enough of the senators who opposed the D.C. seat and ushered in a sufficient number of new supporters that the measure may now have all the votes needed. Throw in the already pledged backing of incoming President Barack Obama, and D.C. residents will have the best chance ever to have a real voice in Congress.

Even so, look for constitutional challenges to any such measure to keep lawyers busy for years.


Legislation we’d love to see, courtesy of the incoming 111th Congress:

The Austria -Walz Act to promote ballroom dancing in America, sponsored by Reps. Steve Austria, R-Ohio, and Tim Walz, D-Minn.

(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com and Lee Bowman at bowmanl(at)shns.com.)