Via Meadia is shocked, shocked! at the latest disclosures from Washington DC that some of the President’s largest campaign donors are lobbyists in all but name. Apparently, some of the people writing checks for thousands of dollars and asking their friends to do the same are hoping to influence government policy! Horrors. The NYT has the story:
At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s “bundlers” — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign.
Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists.
But registered or not, the bundlers are in many ways indistinguishable from people who fit the technical definition of a lobbyist. They glide easily through the corridors of power in Washington, with a number of them hosting Mr. Obama at fund-raisers while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business.
Via Meadia can’t bring itself to hate lobbyists as much as our more moralistic colleagues and friends often do. A large and complex democratic society like ours necessarily has many different economic and political interest groups who want representation. Even oil companies have shareholders, employees and subcontractors who benefit from a healthy oil industry, and if freedom means anything it means that those affected by government decisions have the right to express their views to lawmakers and advance their interests within the law.The Founding Fathers all hated the idea of political parties and ‘factions’ but soon came around to realize that parties are necessary to republican self government. Lobbies are to our times what political parties were to the Founders: they are necessary but despised.Because lobbies play a necessary and vital role in our political system, efforts to curtail them usually end in failure. We can (and should) do more to track and publicize the funding that politicians get, and the press should do a much better job of following the ways in which lobbyists shape legislation, but there is no practical way to keep people and interests who are affected by policies and laws from trying to influence policy makers and shape laws.That being said, lobbyists probably don’t have as much influence as the sensationalist media leads the public to believe. On the big issues, politicians generally look for people who support the stands they believe in, rather than selling their souls to anybody with cash. Just because Republicans take money from oil companies doesn’t mean that they are insincere in their dislike of the EPA. Just because Democrats cash checks from teachers’ unions doesn’t mean that they don’t really believe the government should be spending more on Head Start.What makes the Obama administration and its band of well heeled supporters look foolish isn’t the dance between politicos and those who pay their bills in the hope of favorable treatment. It is the hypocrisy: claiming to rise above an inescapable system.The Founders did the same thing; Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton built political parties while denying that anything so unpatriotic and vulgar ever crossed their minds. As late as the time of William McKinley, presidential candidates pretended not to be interested in running for office. Now President Obama takes his proud place in the procession of American hypocrites and pretends not to take money from lobbies.Shock all round. Politicians pandering to voter prejudice? What next, misleading talking points in presidential debates?