Lobby, Lobbification, Lobbified – An Analysis
By Lawrence Davidson | Part One (Originally posted on 16 April 2011)
Lobbification is a word I have just coined for the corruptive process that bends politicians to the will of special interests–that is to the will of lobbies. The result of lobbification can be seen in the stilted and fawning behavior of the lobbified political brain. Politicians with lobbified brains become the obedient instruments of the lobbies which have captured their political souls. Below are a few examples of the results of lobbification.
>Part I: An Example from the House of Representatives
The majority of the politicians who sit on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee are victims of lobbification. Among the major lobbies that have, over the decades, carried out this corrupting process are the Zionist organizations in their various Jewish and Christian manifestations. In their present state, the lobbified minds of these committee members, so
On Tuesday 5 April 2011 three Israelis appeared before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. Two were retired IDF generals and one was Dore Gold, the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Gold is one of those transplanted Americans who have chosen careers as Israeli spokesmen. (As an aside, he is also an Inspector Clouseau look alike). He served as Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations and political advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Among Gold’s dubious accomplishments was convincing President Clinton not to pressure Israel over the Golan Heights. The Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once described him as “simply hatred’s scribe.” Here is some of what Gold and his fellow Israelis told the Foreign Affairs Committee:
1. Israel is confronting a new diplomatic assault that could well strip it of territorial defenses in the West Bank that have provided for its security for over forty years…..”
2. “The 1993 Oslo Agreements envisioned a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with borders to be decided by the parties themselves and not imposed by international coalitions or by unilateral acts.”
3. “Traditional U.S. policy recognized that Israel is not expected to withdrew from all territories it captured in the 1967 Six Day War. This was enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 242….”
4. “…the entire Middle East is engulfed in flames. Just as Israel faces complete strategic uncertainty…it is being asked to acquiesce to unprecedented concessions that could put its very future at risk.” Therefore, “…to agree to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and to acquiesce to the loss of defensible borders pose an unacceptable risk for the Jewish state.”
During this lament our Congressional Representatives sat there, in their collective lobbified frame of mind, and swallowed it all in as if it were gospel. This was completely predictable. The Foreign Affairs Committee is chaired by Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an ardent anti-Castro Cuban American who has spent her political life doing two things: first, distorting our foreign policy toward Cuba so that no vestige of national interest can be found therein, and second, promoting a tactical alliance between reactionary Cuban American groups and the Zionists. Ros-Lehtinen has recently confirmed her lobbified status by demanding that Congress “make it U.S. policy to demand that the UN General Assembly revoke and repudiate the Goldstone Report.” She did this despite the fact that three of the four signatories of the Report have avowed its accuracy and continued relevance. The ranking Democrat on the committee is Howard Berman who has never been able to figure out who he should represent more diligently, his California district constituents or Israel.
Both these leading committee members clearly suffer from lobbification and most of the other standing members also display this condition to one extent or another. As a result, when it came to the discussion that followed the Israelis’ presentation, all the possible probing questions remained unasked. Here are some of them, figuratively addressed to Ambassador Dore, et. al.
1. What do you mean by “diplomatic assault,” “imposed by international coalitions,” and “unilateral acts”? Do you mean the rather feeble US and European suggestion that your country negotiate in good faith and cease its own series of illegal unilateral acts such as the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem?
2. And how is it that you are now telling us that, for the last forty years, your “territorial defenses” have made you secure? For the past forty years you have been telling us how insecure you are! Are we to understand that your constant claim of insecurity was a gross exaggeration? Perhaps nothing more than an addictive frame of mind? Or has it been just a facade behind which you carry on expansion in violation of international law?
3. Why do you bring up the Oslo Accords? For the last few decades you have been telling us that they are dead letters, irrelevant to current circumstances. You seen to trot them out when they serve your purposes and cast them into oblivion when they do not. Also, are you not aware that in the past your country has violated these accords at will?
4. Is Israel’s determined refusal to negotiate rational concessions really a function of the assertion that the “entire Middle East” is allegedly “engulfed in flames”? If we simply go back to a period when there was no “complete strategic uncertainty” we find that Israel’s position on compromise was exactly the same as it is today. So isn’t this new concern really a contrived excuse to justify your country’s refusal to come to just and fair settlement with the Palestinians?
5. Why are you bringing up the possibility of “full withdrawal” from the West Bank as if it was a specter gazing over your shoulder? When is the last time the U.S. government or the European Union demanded this of you? Is not the present understanding of the final character of borders based upon the 1967 Green line one that includes mutually agreed upon and equitable land swaps? Is not this the recognized contemporary understanding of UN Resolution 242?
6. And what is this business of “defensible borders”? When was the last time your country’s borders proved indefensible to conventional military attack? Isn’t it true that, even without the West Bank, your borders have never been seriously crossed by such forces? Your vulnerability lies in your inability to counter guerrilla and terrorist attacks, and to prevent missile penetration. Ultimate security against these threats does not rest in a policy of colonial expansion but rather in an equitable peace agreement.
What a memorable and actually useful committee meeting it would have been if these or similar questions had been posed. But alas, the lobbified brain functions something like Israel’s apartheid wall. Meaningful questions about Israel and doubts about the real consequences of Zionism cannot easily get over or around the 9 meter high conditioning that is lobbification.
Part II – An Example From the U.S. Senate
The on-line magazine Politico reports tells us that “even as they push for huge cuts, 11 freshman GOP senators say the U.S. must continue to provide foreign aid to its strongest ally in the Middle East: Israel.” In a letter to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the security conscious eleven stated, “as we work to reduce wasteful government spending….we must continue to prioritize the safety of our nation and the security of our allies, including Israel.” Only the thoroughly lobbified brain canadvocate cutting $500 million from federal programs for health and nutrition for women, infants and children and simultaneously insist on continuing to give Israel $ 3 billion a year– and, do so in the name of “prioritizing the safety of our nation”! The Senator who organized the letter to McConnell is Marco Rubio of Florida (a male version of Ros-Lehtinen) and he sits on what committee? The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of course. His lobbified state apparently makes it impossible for him to see the connection between our open-ended support of Israel, Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and our nation’s insecurity. It should come as no surprise that Senator Rubio has said that the U.S. must “stand with Israel without equivocation or hesitation” and cease pressuring Israel over its settlement policies.
Part III – Conclusion
As the approximately 206.8 million adult Americans go about their daily lives most probably do not realize that they, or at least the approximately 57% who bother to vote in federal elections, have placed into positions of power individuals who have been corrupted by lobby power. This is due to the fact that most Americans do not understand and/or pay attention to how their own political system works. Few and far between are the school “civics” courses that, in theory, explain its intricacies. And, once the Republicans get done gutting the education budgets, those remaining courses will most likely disappear.
Ignorance is not bliss. It is often the prelude to sudden destruction. It is not bliss to be ignorant of the corruption that is undermining your government . Lobbification is synonymous with just that –a dangerous form of political corruption. Our political system is riddled with it. It has been so for a long time and the situation is not improving. This condition has recently manifested itself in Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Ohio and a host of other states in the form of feverish acts of self-destruction. And, as we have seen, Congress has no immunity. Yet the citizenry goes blissfully about its business. To quote the immortal Samuel Johnson, “Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, roll darkling down the torrent of his fate? (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 2001, p. 411, No. 19). Perhaps it is so.
POST DATA ON TOM DASCHLE: QED
* In a piece titled Daschle’s Problems: When Is a Lobbyist Not a Lobbyist? (Feb. 03, 2009), TIME Magazine intoned,
According to the White House, the important thing is that Tom Daschle is not technically a lobbyist. “If you’re not registered to lobby, you can’t be a lobbyist,” explains White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. And Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader who is up for the top health post in the Obama Cabinet, never filled out the paperwork to register.
That distinction matters quite a bit because Barack Obama promised during his campaign that lobbyists “would not get a job in my White House.” On his first full day in office, that pledge turned into the new President’s first official policy, when he signed an Executive Order banning lobbyists from serving in his Administration. The order did come with some fine print, however — a waiver process that the White House counsel could invoke at will in the name of the “public interest,” allowing an undetermined number of former lobbyists to effectively violate the new policy. (See members of Obama’s White House.)
To date, a handful of these waivers have been proposed, including, most controversially, one for William Lynn, a former lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon who has been tapped to serve in the No. 2 job at the Pentagon. But the controversy over the waivers, which have been criticized by both Democratic and Republican Senators, is just one of the perception problems dogging Obama’s new ethics policy. Another issue stems from the people nominated to the Administration who have worked in the lobbying business but are not technically lobbyists — people, in other words, like Daschle or former Senator George Mitchell, the new Middle East peace envoy who previously served as chairman of a law firm that has done lobbying and legal work for many clients in the region, including the leader of Dubai.
Although he never registered, Daschle, in fact, made millions of dollars after he left government doing stuff that looks, smells and tastes a lot like lobbying — work that led to the taxes flap that forced him to apologize to his former colleagues on Monday for what he called a “completely inadvertent” mistake. And while that failure to pay more than $128,000 in back taxes and interest has briefly marred his confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), it’s the ethical gray area Daschle’s advisory work represents that has called into question Obama’s promise of changing the culture in Washington.
Daschle, for instance, was a high-paid “policy adviser” at Alston & Bird, a lobbying firm with dozens of brand-name pharmaceutical and health-services clients. “Senator Daschle focuses his services on advising the firm’s clients on issues related to all aspects of public policy,” boasts the firm’s website. One of Alston’s clients, EduCap, a nonprofit student-loan company that spent six figures lobbying to change federal loan laws, took Daschle on two cushy overseas trips, one to the Bahamas for a board meeting and another to the Middle East to meet with foreign leaders.
During his time at Alston, a wide range of for-profit enterprises with interests in influencing government health policy — including giants like UnitedHealth, GE Healthcare and the Health Industry Distributors Association — paid Daschle five-figure sums for speeches. UnitedHealth was also a “client” of Daschle’s at Alston, as was the Great Plains Indian Gaming Association, a trade group representing tribes with casinos in the upper Midwest. And then there is Leo Hindery Jr., the former chairman of the cable-television industry’s lobbying group, who hired Daschle as an adviser on a new investment firm and gifted him more than $100,000 in car services from Hindery’s limousine driver, which the former South Dakota Senator failed to pay taxes on.
On Monday, Daschle’s spokeswoman, Jenny Backus, told the Associated Press that his work on behalf of health-care clients did not constitute a conflict of interest for his job at HHS. “He welcomed every opportunity to make his case to the American public at large and the health-care industry in particular that America can’t afford to ignore the health-care crisis any longer,” Backus said. Under the Obama ethics rules, Daschle will be barred from dealing with “specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients,” unless he is granted a waiver.
While working at Alston, Daschle never technically lobbied anyone, even though he worked for a lobbying firm, made money from lobbying clients and become business partners of those investing in heavily regulated industries. He was able to skate through by exploiting an undefined middle ground in the way influence is brokered in Washington. Under the law, there is a distinction between “lobbying contacts,” which only lobbyists can do, and “lobbying activities,” which can be done by both lobbyists and non-lobbyists.
“The lobbying disclosure law applies to organizations and individuals who make lobbying contacts,” explains Fred Wertheimer, a good-government lobbyist for Democracy 21. “It does not apply to sitting down and strategizing about how to win a battle in Congress.” Furthermore, the lobbying law applies only to those who spend more than 20% of their professional time making contacts.
Lobbification Part II – An Analysis (23 April 2011)
In a piece titled Lobby, Lobbification, Lobbified (16 April 2011) I asserted that lobby power has corrupted the legislative branches of government particularly at the federal level. How and why this has happened needs further explanation. Most people point a finger at the corrosive impact of money and that certainly plays a pivotal role. It is extraordinarily expensive to run for any major office at either the state or national level, and increasing numbers of our candidates come from the super rich. Lobbies or special interests also supply a lot of the money a politician needs to fund repeated election cycles. However, the problem presented by special interests is still more fundamental.
I – The Structural Problem
The influence of lobbies and special interests is a structural part of our system and has been so since the founding of the nation. This being the case, the United States is not really a democracy of individuals. Rather, it is a democracy of competing interest groups or factions. In my book, Foreign Policy Inc. (U. of Kentucky Press, 2009) I coin the word “factocracy” to describe the real nature of American politics.
The country’s founding fathers were acutely aware of the nature of factocracy and they feared its influence. In his Farewell Address given in 1796, George Washington warned of “combinations and associations” which might succeed in substituting their own desires for “the delegated will of the nation.” James Madison dedicated his Federalist Paper number 10 to the issue of factionalism within the republican environment. He feared “men of fractious tempers, local prejudices or of sinister designs” who would “betray the interests of the people” by “intrigue” or by “corruption.”
Madison attributed the tendency toward factionalism to human nature. The pursuit of self-interest spurs faction formation and therefore its “causes cannot be removed.” So one is left with the task of designing ways to control it. Madison was of the opinion that the new born United States was a big enough conglomeration of groups that, if its governing institutions were properly arranged, the nation’s large number of competing interests would check each other. Also, the country was, in his opinion, territorially large enough that “those who may feel a common sentiment have less opportunity of communication and concert.” So, in his work on the nation’s constitution he built in representative bodies with what he felt to be sufficient numbers of delegates to make the domination of one or a few factions difficult and augmented this with checks and balances between different parts of the government.
Unfortunately, Madison’s efforts have failed. Technology solved the communication problem and powerful factions formed not only in the legislature but also outside of it. Lobbies and special interests concentrated on the particular aspects of policy that interested their members and became so numerous that one or another special interest now influences all important aspects of both domestic and foreign policy. Presently there are over 11,000 lobbyists in Washington DC and they spend about $3.5 billion annually to assure that their parochial interests stand in for the national interest. Indeed, it is hard to recognize the national interest amidst all the special interest clamor.
II – Just who are the constituents?
Here is another way to understand this phenomenon. One might ask, who are a politician’s main constituents? At election time there is no doubt that the voters play that role. At that time all politicians focus their speeches, media measures and other propaganda on the voters. The candidate who wins this information combat (please note that campaign information need not be accurate or objective) and best organizes voter turnout wins the election. However, after the election the importance of the voters temporarily recedes. At best the now elected politician will perform a holding action with the voters. He or she may establish local offices to hear voters’ complaints and needs. This office may even assist the voters in solving problems concerning the government. But these will be low end delegated tasks. Between elections the real constituency on which the politician focuses his or her personal attention are the special interests that can supply large donations. It is these constituents that make it financially possible to engage in the organizing and information combat that goes on at election time. As the system presently operates, electoral victory would be very difficult without the support of the lobbies. Thus, these between election times constituents are in very good position to strike a deal with the politician that will strongly influence his or her legislative voting and/or policy formulation behavior.
Sometimes there is an overlap between the special interests and the election time voter. For instance, in some states defense contractors such as Boeing or General Electric are major employers and Senators or Representatives from such states who vote to lower the budget of the Defense Department may be seen as working against the interest of both the corporation and its employees. That is, against the interests of a major campaign donor and a relatively large group of voters. It is obvious how hard it would be to operate against these interests. However, at other times the special interest may have nothing to do with the economic welfare of the state or district in question. Such a lobby may have simply struck a bargain that trades its financial donations and media clout for the politician’s legislative support. That is the case of the Zionists and similar lobbies.
III – The Zionist Modus Operandi
Here is how a special interest such as the Zionists might operate. Let us say you are a new Senator from some U.S. state that has only a small number of Jewish voters and but scattered pockets of Christian Zionists ones. You come to Washington, DC and soon thereafter are visited by someone from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). They explain that they can encourage both Jewish and Christian Zionists from around the country to contribute to your campaign fund and mobilize local media support for you often at their expense. As to the Jewish or Christian Zionist element among your voting constituents they will promise to get those voters out for you. In exchange, all you have to do is vote in a pro Israel manner in the Senate when required.
Chances are you know little about the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict particular. Except, of course, you have grown up in the same pro-Israel informational environment as the rest of the American population. The conflict seems not to be a voting concern with the majority at home so taking up the Zionist offer apparently will not alienate anyone. So what do you have to lose? Even if you are one of the exceptional politicians who pay attention to complaints about Israeli barbarism and give them credence, and therefore are prone not to take up the Zionist offer, the consequences of declining might cause you to hesitate. For if you say no to the Zionists they simply go to your opponents. Not just to the opponents in the competing political party, but also to whomever is your competition in the next primary election. From wealthy and powerful potential allies the Zionists could instantly become wealthy and powerful potential enemies. And they have a known record of success at defeating those politicians who will not cooperate with them.
IV – Conclusion
In truth it is a Faustian bargain. Once you sign on with a special interest such as the Zionists they soon become a primary constituent of yours, not only between elections, but also at election time via their media and voter mobilization efforts. They soon become a central part of your team. You no longer look to the State Department for information about the Middle East or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now all that comes from AIPAC and similar sources. Thus your deepening dependency on this lobby is not just financial but also informational. They have melded your world view with theirs. Congratulations, you have been officially lobbified.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history. Mail: email@example.com
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