The jig is up, and my time has come. I'm about to be arrested. They'll be hauling me away in mid-April. Not for doing anything wrong, really. In fact, if the authorities arrest me, it will be for standing up for what's right.
Would you like to get a 22 percent return on the money you invest? Wow, that would be awfully good in today's sorry market! How about making $22,000 for each dollar you spend? That's the payoff that corporations can get from investing in a sure thing: Washington lobbyists.
Three University of Kansas professors recently reported on a corporate lobbying effort to win a special tax break in 2004. Pushed in the name of creating jobs, this bill (which drastically cut corporate taxes on foreign profits) actually created no job gains for workaday folks, but it did produce a job boom for lobbyists. Focusing on 93 major companies--including such giants as Pfizer, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard--the study found that the firms spent $283 million on lobbyists to slide the bill through Congress. In return, the special break they won produced a financial windfall for the 93 corporations, allowing them to dodge $62.5 billion in taxes they otherwise owed--a 22,000 percent dividend on their investment in lobbyists.
Not every lobbying campaign produces such eye-popping results, but Washington influence peddlers now promise corporate clients that they'll get returns of 100 to 1 or better on every dollar invested in professional lobbyists. That's an admission--a boast, really--that legislation is for sale.
It's the golden rule--them with the gold rule--and it mocks America's pretension that ours is a system of representational democracy. For information on lobbying reform, contact the U.S. Public Interest Research Group at www.uspirg.org.
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