Dana Milbank of the Washington Post recently described on a "preposterous political pairing" between consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and right-winger Grover Norquist, who have decided to join forces to support an increase in the minimum wage, since it would result in taking folks off of social welfare programs.
Nice to see that the left and right have met middle ground on the minimum wage issue. But Norquist's true legacy isn't his anti-tax stand but his "pro-1 Percent" efforts -- the creation of the K Street Project, which ensures that politicians who kill legislation that would help the 99 percent will be rewarded with jobs lobbying for the 1 Percent one they're thrown out of office. Rather odd that the Post didn't mention this, given it's located in the same city.
According to "The K Street Gang" by Matthew Continetti, the project, originally called the Tom DeLay Strategy after the disgraced former Congressman, compiled a list of the 400 largest corporate PACs in 1995, invited the lobbyists to DeLay's office and told that them they needed to stop contributing to Democrats,. Thanks to the K Street Project, lobbying outlays more than doubled between 1998 and 2008 alone and 42 percent of former House members and 50 percent of senators became lobbyists, according to Public Citizen.
Wonder why the House Appropriations Committee recently voted to allow school districts to opt out of requirements to reduce salt and increase fresh fruits and vegetables -- and essentially re-define pizza as a vegetable because ketchup is involved? Bribes from the Unhealthy Food Lobby. The so-called School Nutrition Association, bankrolled by nearly 90 corporations , spent $39.8 million to lobby Congress and regulators last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Anytime politicians attempt to rein in this unconscionable behavior, K Street fights back and wins. In 2006 then-Senator Obama gave a press conference announcing the introduction of the Honest Leadership and Government Act, denouncing the fact that "Medicare legislation has become a piggy bank for lobbyists and lawmakers who travel back and forth through the revolving doors in Washington."
Undoubtedly, thanks to lobbying, HLGA was watered down sufficiently so all that it does is ban lobbyists from buying meals, trips and gifts for members of Congress and their aides but doesn't limit the contributions. As Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, a congressman from New York, told the New York Times, "You as a lobbyist cannot buy me a dinner for $40. But... you, the lobbyist can give my campaign $1,000 and the campaign can pay for our dinner. That's perfectly legal, and it's perfectly dumb."
Remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the fact that no significant legislation has been passed to prevent future disasters? In 2010 the oil and gas industry spent a whopping $140 million in lobbying. More than 430 lobbyists for oil and gas previously worked in the legislative or executive branches.
What's saddest is that too Democrats have sold their souls to the 1 Perncet. As Huffington Post reporters Zach Carter and Ryan Grim recently observed, a pro-business coalition known as the New Democrats has teamed up with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to push for measures that would undermine Dodd-Frank's rules on financial derivatives, the complex contracts at the heart of the 2008 meltdown.
As I pointed out in a previous post, most likely what's needed is a referendum prohibiting "conflicted contributions" that is voted on by the general public, given that politicians like bribes and cushy lobbying jobs too much to vote against this practice. Unfortunately, at least according to Wikipedia, the U.S. Constitution doesn't provide for referendums at the federal level.
Incredibly, despite the fact that there are four groups on Capitol Hill focusing on corrupt political practices: The Campaign Legal Center, the Project on Government Oversight, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Democracy 21 -- and one group that does an excellent job of detailing which politicians get corrupting contributions: the Center for Responsive Politics -- as far as I can tell none of these groups have attempted to reverse Norquist's bloodless coup. Democrats must realize that the future of our democracy is at stake.