The Phony Campaign Against Lobbyists

The New York Times article attempting to smear McCain is virtually baseless. But it does call attention to a perennial political hot button: lobbyists. Already there are demands from the media for John McCain to “explain his relationships with lobbyists – what has he done for them?”

Politicians from both parties, especially John McCain, regularly bash lobbyists who “buy access” with campaign contributions and other favors. What they don’t reveal is they depend on those lobbyists to help them exercise power over the private sector.

The Constitution limits the power and authority of the federal government to a few authorized functions, called enumerated powers, found in Article I, Section 8. If the government still obeyed Article I, Section 8 there would be few lobbyists.

Unfortunately the government has assumed myriad powers not included in the enumerated list. Mostly in violation of the Constitution, Congress has enacted thousands of laws to regulate state and local government functions and the private sector. Scores of regulatory agencies write and enforce millions of regulations based on those laws. Here is just one of thousands of examples, four pages regulating the size and shape of toilet tanks.

The Constitution does not authorize these vast powers and thus provides no means for Congress to understand the activities it seeks to regulate or predict the probable side-effects of proposed laws and regulations. Lobbyists have thus become the extra-Constitutional source of information that enables Congress to presume to oversee the rest of us. Lobbyists represent the stakeholder groups that are impacted by federal intervention. Almost all of us have lobbyists, even if we don’t know it. They represent the industry groups we work for, the unions and associations we belong to, and our political and social views.

There are lobbyists on every side of every issue before Congress. When a Senator is criticized for voting the way a lobbyist wanted he or she usually couldn’t avoid voting with at least one lobbyist. Every vote benefits some stakeholders at the expense of others.

Next week the Senate will consider ways for the government to intervene in the mortgage market. Lobbyists will be there representing all stakeholders, including borrowers, lenders, mortgage brokers, Wall Street investment firms, and realtors. Each stakeholder wants a different approach. Whatever Congress decides, even if it does nothing, some lobbyists’ constituent groups will have gained while others will have lost.

Senator Obama has a fantastic scheme for government to manage all health insurance carriers and medical service providers. If he is elected we can expect hordes of lobbyists representing all the varied stakeholder groups to invade the Capitol. No matter how it turns out, even if Congress changes nothing, some lobbyists and stakeholders will have won and others will have lost. As always, the losers will allege “corruption” by lobbyists.

The only way to prevent lobbyists from “buying access” is curtail Unconstitutional government intervention in the private sector. Politicians who advocate expanded government power, while at the same time complaining that lobbyists “buy access,” are riding the double-talk express. They know, or should know, the politician who can’t be bought is the politician with nothing to sell.

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