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« All heck breaking loose in Congress | Main | Mr. Smith goes to Paris... and Italy, and Hawaii, and... »

Who ARE they representing?

In "The Lobby is Getting Crowded," New York Newsday has taken a closer look into the explosive growth of federal lobbying - and found many of the culprits in their own backyard.

It turns out that New York has the highest number of former members of Congress turned lobbyists of any state in the nation - 25 ex-House members and one former senator. Overall, the number of registered federal lobbyists has tripled in the past ten years, from 10,798 in 1996 to the current 32,890 who filed last September. (Federal lobbying expenditures jumped 50 percent in just five years, from $1.4 billion in 1999 to $2.1 billion in 2004.)

Most of these ex-members have managed to rack up millions of dollars in fees since making the switch, leading one of them, former Republican Rep. Ray McGrath, to concede that "a 'revolving door' may exist, with lawmakers leaving Congress who lobby for industries that they once regulated...." Gee, you think?

The article goes on to note that "the heftiest payments often come from large corporations and trade associations...[representing]... industries such as energy, health care, oil, banking and telecommunications, which often want changes in federal law, tax code and agency regulations that affect their profits." And these corporations and trade associations know how to recruit.

For instance, former Republican Rep. Bill Carney, who unsuccessfully fought to keep Long Island's unpopular Shoreham nuclear power plant open while in Congress, noted that "I would have enjoyed defense work [as a lobbyist]... but having gone through the Shoreham battle, several [energy] companies offered me an opportunity to work for them." How convenient.

McGrath's lobbying partner, former Democratic Rep. Tom Downey, describes the dynamic a little more directly: "We represent a number of New York firms because we did their business while in the House."

And all this time we thought they were elected to Congress to do the people's business....

-Gordon Clark

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