Plague of the fatcat lobbyists

They roam the halls of Congress like a pack of ravenous wolves, licking their chops and turning the Democratic process into a mockery, a sham where thieves rule and any hope of good government lies trampled in a mass of bloody, unrecognizable pulp.

They’re the fatcat lobbyists of Washington, a plague of predators that number 19,000 plus and 65 percent of whom draw salaries of $100,000 more a year. Collectively, they spend more than $1.5 billion annually telling members of Congress what bills they want passed or defeated and how to vote on each.

And they subvert, corrupt and control our so-called Democratic Republic by buying influence and votes and controlling Congress and the White House through their narrow interest greed. And many of them will do anything to secure votes and put members of Congress in their pocket.

“Lobbyists” get their name from the pack of influence peddlers and crime bosses who used to sit in the lobby of Washington’s Willard Hotel and wait for a drunken President Ulysses S. Grant to emerge from the hotel bar so they could descend on him like wailing banshees and talk the soused President into just about anything.

Nowadays, laws are supposed to regulate the activities of these bottom feeders but the law is a sham and lobbyists can still secure votes with big campaign donations, invitations to golf weekends, trips on private jets and women on call.

Bill Hecht, a powerhouse Washington lobbyist during the 1980s and 90s, shilled for the government of South Africa and set up trips to the country for members of Congress where they could buy diamonds at cut race prices and even score a date with South African actresses.

Hecht liked to tell the story on a trip he set up for Rep. Dan Burton, a conservative Indiana Republican known for his pursuit of the opposite sex while his wife stayed home in the Hoosier state.

Hecht arranged a date with a pretty, blonde South African actress to spend the evening with Burton but the Congressman, who has a thing about germs, went ballistic when she used her finger to stir his drink.

“He was all set to get laid and have the time of his life,” Hecht bragged to his lobbyist friends in the basement bar of the Capitol Hill Club, “but he ruined it by throwing a fit when she stuck her finger in his drink.” Burton would later come under scrutiny by the Justice Department for putting his mistress on his Congressional office payroll. He also was forced to admit fathering an illegitimate child but such problems would not prevent then Speaker Net Gingrich from picking Burton to chair the House Committee hearings that tried to nail President Bill Clinton for his indiscretions with a White House intern.

The agribusiness industry spends more than $75 million a year lobbying Congress. That’s the same group that hired Washington party girl Paula Parkinson to “lobby” key members of the House and Senate. Parkinson admitted having sex with eight members of both houses, including former Senator (and Vice President) Dan Quayle, Tom Railsback of Illinois and Tom Evans of Delaware.

Sex isn’t the only tool at a lobbyist’s disposal. Family connections help. Consider Randy DeLay, brother of scandal-ridden House Republican Whip Tom Delay. Until his brother was elected to a GOP leadership job, Randy DeLay helmed the failure of four businesses – a restaurant, two oil ventures and a beach resort property and he filed for bankruptcy in 1992.

But his life changed in 1995 when brother Tom became House Republican Whip. Suddenly, DeLay the failed businessman became DeLay the hotshot lobbyist courted by Houston Lighting and Power, Mexican cement monopoly Cemex, Union Pacific Railroad and the city of Houston. These clients and others paid Randy DeLay more than $750,000 over the next two years.

“Be assured there is no conflict of interest,” Tom DeLay claims in a statement issued by his office. “I have taken steps to make Randy’s access to my office more difficult than any other registered lobbyist.”

Uh huh. Sure. We’re supposed to believe all these companies paid Randy DeLay 750 large so he could wait in line behind everyone else. But then Tom DeLay is a known liar and currently faces indictments in Texas for influence peddling and corruption.

Lobbying, of course, if where former members of Congress and administration officials cash in after their so-called “government service.” Nearly half of all members of Congress who retired or were defeated for re-election in the last 10 years went on to become lobbyists. In the last 30 years, more than half the senior staff members of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office left to become lobbyists for foreign corporations.

The result is a government for sale to the highest bidder, one where con artists rule and ordinary citizens get screwed.

What we end up with, as the legendary H.L. Mencken observed 60 years ago, is a system where the “government is a broker in pillage and every election is a sort of advance auction of stolen goods.”