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Hi folks. Choucair with your Saturday Select because it's election season, I thought we'd dig back into the archives from October six, 2015 and find out how lobbying works. You may think lobbying is awful and it certainly can be, but also serves a purpose. You know, I'll let you make your own mind up about it, but here we go with how lobbying works.
Right now. Welcome to Step. You should know a production of Heart Radio's HowStuffWorks. Hey, welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark, and there is Charles W.. Chuck Bryant and Crickets. So we're here. We're doing this coast style. Yes. So what happened was and I did. You explained to me, but know, maybe my mind was elsewhere and I didn't fully understand. But what happened is guest producer Noel got the record. He put the mouse in the hamster wheel, got the computer running and left.
And now you're a little freaked out, aren't you? Well, it's this is out of close to eight hundred shows. This is literally the first time it's ever just been you and me in a room. Yeah. That crazy. Yeah, it really is, isn't it. It's I feel like I don't know. I feel like no with no one in here, even though no one ever guides us, that we should just I don't know that we're gonna cut up and curse.
And it's like when the teacher has left the room, it feels like there's a vast field, a portal to another dimension to my right, where Jerry, I had no idea what that extra silent human three feet meant. Now, this means that we've been put out to pasture.
This is disconcerting. Feel like you're gonna, like, knife me or something. I couldn't. Now I know and we never know until we published the episode.
Nope. No one would ever know. Wow. That's gruesome. All right. This is just weird. Let's. Let's do it. You ready? Yeah. Good choice, by the way. Yeah. I don't remember what episode we we pick this in. We were talking about something in lobbying came up where like we should just do it on lobbying. Well here it is. Yeah. I'm glad we're doing this because we'll clear up some misconceptions. It's not always evil.
Seventy five percent of the time. Maybe more. Yeah.
Yeah. I remember when we said we were going to do a lobbying when we got a lot of emails from lobbyists who were like, please, please, please don't just trash our profession like we ever would. They really lobbying is actually it can be a really good thing. It sure is. Why? So we got a lot of feedback before this thing even came out. Yeah. Which hopefully will help us. Well, they're understandably a very defensive group.
Yeah. Everyone thinks it's just rotten and corrupt across all channels. And again, it's only not true.
Seventy five percent is rotten to the core.
And the reason I and just about everyone else walking the planet thinks that lobbyists are rotten is because of some very high profile cases like member Jack Abramoff.
Who can forget what a and I usually don't publicly trash people. But that guy was a pile of garbage. You know, there's really no I was trying to find some other way around it. It's like now is awful. Yeah. And just ripped people off, unabashedly ripped off India, bribed, bribed officials, bribed people, pocketed money.
And he was a highly, highly successful lobbyist for people he was working for. Yeah, he was. He's not a good fella. No. But again, he was a successful lobbyist. Is at the top of his field for many years, actually. And it wasn't until 2006 when he was convicted of, I believe, bribery and corruption and all sorts of stuff, tax evasion, all kinds of stuff. Yeah. And ended up serving three, three years.
I think he did three three years in the pokey. Yeah. And supposedly had to pay a lot of restitution and tax fines. Yeah. But who knows how that stuff works out. No one ever follows up. All right. You know, we'd say, oh, he got a he's supposed to pay all these people back. Sure. It happened.
Yeah. You know, he probably found a loophole to work on. He's probably working on a lawsuit against this right this moment, Chuck. Can you not publicly call someone garbage? I think you can. Okay. Yeah. Can we find out? Can we read this opening statement from 1869? Yeah. Because I think it makes a pretty good point that Jack Abramoff wasn't the first despised lobbyist. No. This is written by Emily Edson Briggs, who is a Washington, D.C. newspaper correspondent at a time where there weren't a lot of women doing that, which is kind of cool.
I think she was the first allowed into the congressional press room. Yeah. They should let her in.
She'll never say anything bad because we gave her this job. Yeah. And she's like, you fell for my big cookies plan. So she wrote a column called The Dragons of the Lobby. So you probably know where this is headed. And the opening line of the column said, winding in and out through the long, devious basement passage, crawling through the corridors, trailing its slimy link through gallery to committee room. At last, it lies stretched at full length from the floor of the Congress.
This dazzling reptile, this huge scaly serpent of the lobby. That could have been our Halloween episode. It really couldn't. Maybe we should go see that. I think we should with or a little bit of sound effect here. That was an 1869. Yeah. Not very flattering. And it was actually I think it didn't come at a time when lobbying and lobbyists were really getting a chokehold on Congress, on legislation, on sweetheart deals from the federal government.
But lobbying goes further back than that. And lobbyists have been despised even further back than that. As a matter of fact, yeah.
And it's again, it's something this article makes. I thought this is a really well-written article, actually. Yeah. This is Dave Ru's article Andrews. He did a good job. He points out that the knee jerk reaction for your average person might be to say, just make it all illegal. Get rid of the lobby. But it's awful. Yes. But he makes a good point that it is it is necessary. The First Amendment in our own constitution says the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances is necessary and constitutional and mandatory.
Yeah, and that's what lobbyists do, is it's not always a huge corporation. A lot of times they'll speak for the Girl Scouts or the Boy Scouts. Yeah. Yeah. Or, you know, all kinds of special interest groups. And we all have them.
So you, me, everyone listening in America has a constitutional right to go and petition Congress to say, hey, guys, you guys aren't paying enough attention to government waste or NASA deserves way more funding than you're giving it. Yeah, well, whatever you go do that that's lobbying technically. But unfortunately, almost from the beginning, corporate and big business special interest groups figured out a way to basically exploit that to their to their own benefit. Yeah. And it's a ruse.
Also points out and we'll get to this later. Which is one of the big problems it's necessary because Congress and their staff don't have time to. That. Well, again, we'll get to that later. Okay. I don't want to spoil. All right. But they don't have time to go through the myriad requests and an information deluge of information that's necessary to make an educated decision. All right. And so much so that Senator John F. Kennedy in 1956 said that we are, in many cases, expert technicians capable of not we are I'm sorry, lobbyists.
He wasn't a lobbyist. Are in many cases. I'm sorry, IRA, in many cases, expert technicians capable of examining complex and difficult subjects and a clear, understandable fashion. So that's the reason we need them in many cases, is to literally explain stuff to Congress, people and staff strapped for time and resources.
It should be said, though, that when Kennedy wrote that in the mid 50s, lobbying was not much of a thing. It had, like it was established, had been established for a couple hundred years. People hated lobbyists. There were huge lobbyist scandals in the Gilded Age from the Civil War to the 19th century. But in the mid 50s, lobbying was not a huge thing. It wasn't. You know, what he said, though, was accurate.
And it still is accurate today. Yeah. If you were an incoming Congress person, you make your name both to your constituency and in your party by getting bills passed by coming up with bills and passing them. Right.
Look at all the work I accomplished. Right. And then if you get enough, you may end up on a nice committee, maybe even a committee chair, and then eventually a party leader and all that as because you introduced legislation that was favored and got passed. The thing is, you don't have the time or the staff to research and write legislation. So you have to you have to turn to lobbyists, lobbying groups and say, hey, you guys are literally experts on this topic.
I need your help. Educate me, help me write this, and then we'll we'll be friends. The problem is, is there's not a lot there's not a special interest group, like you said, whether it's the Girl Scouts or whether it's the Chamber of Commerce. Yeah. That doesn't have a slant. That isn't going to try to slant that legislation in their favor. So that means that the laws that are written in this country today are the legislative equivalent of advertorials.
Yeah. You know, kind of thin on actual content and really heavy on stuff that benefits the the the corporations running the show.
You know, who would make good lobbyists who are in this room right now? Oh, you think so? I was just thinking like. Generally unbiased research presented. Yeah, so someone can make a decision. Yeah, that's kind of what we do. Yeah, except we're not paid like lobbyists. No, we're his make a lot of dough. No. In fact, in 2014, lobbyists and these are people that are officially registered as lobbyists, which we'll get to.
There are a lot more people doing lobbyist work. Yes. That aren't officially registered. But official registered lobbyists were paid up to three point two four billion dollars in 2014. And that is only divided among how many people was it? About ten thousand six hundred people.
Are you kidding? That's how many registered lobbyists there were. Right. And this year and this. But again, just the registered one from a high of about 14. And change in. When was that? Two thousand six or seven year olds. He says the 2007 changes came along. And it's not because there are fewer lobbyists there that just gave rise to people or gave people the ability be like, oh, I'm not a lobbyist anymore. Because here's the thing.
If you are a registered lobbyist, you are subject to some very strict ethical guidelines, legal guidelines, scrutiny of your business practices. Sure. And there's a lot of stuff you can't do. You're just you're just completely outlawed from doing certain things. If if you can just skirt the definition of a lobbyist, it's like open season, man. It's the Wild West on Capitol Hill for you. And you can make as much money as you possibly can while doing the same things, just not having to register as a lobbyist.
All right. But that's a lot of teasing. This is like this is the current state of the American legislative process. Our legislators rely on special interest groups almost entirely to tell them what they need to know from their slant and then actually writing the legislation for them to go take the Congress and be a good I. Now, I want to make my name with this. All right. There's one other thing, too, that we should say. Yeah.
And this is a this is one reason why lobbying is so pernicious. Lobbyists also serve as major fundraisers for the very politicians that they're lobbying. Yeah. I didn't give them money. I just held a fundraiser that raised four and a half million dollars. Right. At, you know, three thousand dollars a plate. But, hey, they don't. They gave them the money, right?
They don't owe me anything. I'm just doing this because I'm a patriotic citizen of the United States. And I'll see you Monday, Senator. And I like to overcharge for salmon. Yeah, and they crazy. Yeah. So that's the current state, everybody. Let's go back to the beginning, because lobbyists have been around basically as long as America has.
Yeah. Let's take a little break and then we'll we'll get to the tease stuff and start off with a little bit of history.
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All right. There's some misconceptions about the history of the word itself. Yes. Laura says that it was invented in the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in that lobby when Ulysses S. Grant would kick back and have a drink like he so liked to do and would get disgusted by what he called those damn lobbyists that were hanging out there asking him for stuff. Me, gimme, gimme. Yeah. And while that may have that may have given rise to the term popularity wise here, but you can trace it back to England in the 16th 40s when they talked about the lobby in the House of Commons where you could go right up to your representatives and in your cute little wig and say, here's what I think you should do.
All right. And here's some here's some good old fashioned English pounds in your pocket. Yeah. And I mean, that's always just gone with it. Part and parcel. Yeah. You know, if not outright bribery, at least favors or quid pro quo or tit for tat or football. It's the Jekyll and Hyde Beyonce tickets. All sorts of stuff. Yeah. First class or first class. No one flies first class talking about the Lear jet.
The true first class. Yeah, the private jet didn't do a first class analysis called business class because of class resentment in the United States.
Yeah, and now they've. Well, depends on the airline. Yeah. There's all sorts of new rules and special things you can pay for. All right. So in the United States, from the very first session of Congress, there were lobbying efforts and people treating Congress, say congressmen for this one, because this was in 1789. Yes. We're going see Congress person for later on.
But the women were at home brewing beer in their households, but they were playing congressmen with treats and dinners. And that was a direct quote from Pennsylvania Senator William Mackley from the very first session of Congress. He was saying, yeah, their lobbyist here, they're basically trying to bribe people.
They're trying to stall the Tariff Act of 1789, which established Congress's ability to basically extract duties and taxes on goods in the United States in order to support the government. Let's go out to dinner instead. And the New York merchants were like, oh, let me get you hammered. Three ways from Sunday. What are you doing later? Yeah, I think what you're doing, you're going to finish. You can't get Roman one sitting.
Then apparently the Bank of the United States was one of the first big corrupt organizations as far as literally having politicians in their pocket, you know, paying the money. Yeah. Like the United States used to have things like like an actual centralized bank. Yeah. And Andrew Jackson came along. It's like this thing is just way too corrupt. Yeah. We need to get rid of it and put me on your money. Yeah. But the the the scandals associated with it were things like the National Bank had on its board as board members who are being paid by the bank sitting congressmen who were writing legislation in favor of the bank.
Yeah, this quote is the best. Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster sent a letter to the Bank of the United States that said this, among other things, since I arrived here, I have had an application to be concerned professionally against the bank, which I've declined, of course, although I believe my retainer has not been renewed or refreshed, as usual, if it be wished that my relation to the bank should be continued. It may be well to send me the usual retainer.
In other words, I've noticed that you're not paying me. Now people are telling me to write legislation against you. I'm turning them down. For now, you may want to send that money again if you would like this. Love, Daniel. You know, like he flat out said, the bribes have sort of dried up. I've noticed. Right. So why don't you start sending those again? Unbelievable. Yeah. History.
So you talked about the Gilded Age. Post Civil War till the close of the 19th century. Mm hmm. We like to think that America's railroads were built on grit and determination. But in fact, it was rife with insider deals and scandal. What was it called? The Credit Mobilier scandal? Yeah, I'd like to this a little bit. It's mind boggling. Basically, Union Pacific is mind boggling how overt it was. Yeah. You know, for a bit even just like it was not just crooked in one way, it was crooked in a number of ways.
Had formed one big, huge crooked thing that Congress was involved in the Union Pacific Railroad started a company that served as the sole agent of building and managing the Union Pacific Railroad. Yeah. And then. They issued stock in this stuff and they used the credit, mobile mobility and Union Pacific itself to basically overcharge and overpay one another so that the value of the stock went through the roof. OK. So is the stock massaging scheme to begin with? It's like an insider deal with yourself, right, to raise the value artificially of your stock, right?
Yes. And then they took these these shares in this company and started handing out to Congress at a discounted price. So Congress had to do was go sell them on the market for their face value, which was, again, artificially inflated. And they made a bunch of cash and they were taking these as bribes for giving like, um, land grants or breaking treaties with Native Americans so that the Union Pacific Railroad could build the railroad across the Western states.
Yeah. And this was they did this because, believe it or not, at the time, there was a lot of private investors ponying up money for this railroad because it's sort of a new thing. And it was risky. Yeah, they didn't know, although was a great idea. They did know, like all investors, what they care about is getting their money back in quick fashion. Right. And they just didn't know if that was going to be possible.
So, I mean, there's definitely something to be said for the federal government to step in and be like, look, we think that this is really going to help things out. We really want to fund it. But does it have to be totally fraught with corruption while that happens? Yeah, you know, no. Easy answer. Yeah. And then there was the famous Gilded Age lobbyist, Sam Ward, who he basically invented the social lobby.
So while he wouldn't get into direct lobby versus social lobby, but social lobby is basically in Sam Ward's case, he was a great chef and he was like, throw these great parties are going to have great food and fine wine and invite special interest groups and corporation heads and politicians and get them in the same room. But we're not going to talk about that stuff directly. We're just all going to get hammered together and have a great time and become friends.
That was that was his job. Friends do things for one another, right? Yeah. Well, I don't think we ever even said what K Street was.
By the way, K Street is literally k the letter K Street, where just about every lobby in the country has an office. Yeah.
So that explains that people are out there going with this case. Well, yeah, you're right. But it's like seeing Madison Avenue when you refer to advertise. Yeah. Or Wall Street. Yeah. So lobbying just kind of after the Gilded Age, America is sick to death of lobbying and lobbyists and didn't want to have anything to do with it. Yeah. So lobbying went didn't go away, but it fell to the wayside a little bit. Was still a thing.
Throughout the 20th century it just kind of waxed and waned. In the mid 40s, I believe Congress was like we actually kind of need these guys. So let's set up some rules for dealing with them, because at this time already what John Kennedy was writing about was true. Yeah. You had a brain drain going on from Capitol Hill to K Street where people would go and become an aide to a senator or a congressperson. Yeah. And make contacts, get a little bit of experience.
And then after a couple of years, they would move on over to K Street, to a lobbying firm. You make anywhere between five to 10 times what they were as the congressional aide. And K Street was sucking the talent away from Congress. And so these Congress people in the 40s said, hey, we need to work with these people because we need them. So let's make up some rules. Even still, lobbying was nothing like you would recognize it today.
It wasn't until the 70s and 80s when business did an about face or dealing with the government. Up to that point, it was like governments. They do stay out of our business. Yeah, that's the lobbying we want to do is to keep you off of our backs, keep you from regulating our stuff, to stay out of our business. Yeah. And then at some point, I'm not exactly sure who figured this out, but some lobbyists convinced corporations like, hey, guys, you're doing this all wrong.
You guys could get mind boggling amounts of money from the government in the form of subsidies or great contractors, sweetheart deals just by using our services. Right. And lobbying exploded. Yeah. And wouldn't just take comparatively a tiny bit of that. Right. Even though it's a ton of money for individual lobbyists. Yeah. It's nothing to these corporations. Right, exactly. And yeah, I like the Dave Ruse. Gave a really great example of Northrop Grumman Grumman in in 2012 or something like that, I believe.
Dunder Mifflin. Yeah. They spent one hundred seventy six million dollars on lobbying from in 14 years from 1998 to 2012, which that's nothing to them, because in that time in 2012 itself, Northrop Grumman got one hundred and seventy six million dollar. One hundred and eighty nine million dollar contract for a cyber security system for the DVD is out and that one contract paid for 14 years of lobbying expenses, right? Yeah. And then they got a one point seven billion dollar contract to build five drones.
Right. And that's just Northrop Grumman. Like, you can't really pick on them. The reason why we called them out is because during 1998, 2012, they were the ninth biggest spender on lobbying not just corporations, but industry as well. General Electric was the the single entity that spent the most. Yeah, this guy is a corporation. Goes there's a great Web site if you want just good information and stats called open secret dot org. And this past year, 2014, the top 10 spenders were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is always number one.
Right, by a long shot. Yeah, because they represent a lot of businesses. The National Association of Realtors was number two. Blue Cross Blue Shield was number three. American Hospital Association for American Medical Association five. Seeing a trend here. Right. And I wonder why the National Association of Broadcasters, National Cable and Telecom, Comcast, again, it's you can literally look at the years where there's the most spending and what's going on. Right. Is industry.
And then Google and Boeing round out the top 10, you know, at just 16 million each. And so, I mean, like the amount of money spent has, I believe, tripled in the last few years. Right. Yeah, I think so. So. So this is fairly new. But it's not new. It's basically a return to the lobbying of the Gilded Age. Yeah. The amount of money, attention, time, questionable stuff that's been going on is just a replay of what happened a hundred something years ago, right?
Yeah. And one of the reasons that we've we've it's become so rampant. It's been ratcheted up so much. You can actually laid at the feet of Newt Gingrich. So Newt Gingrich chuckers was speaker of the House in the 90s when Clinton was president. You'll remember. Sure.
And he decided that Congress was doing too much, right? Oh, yeah, I know. You know. So he cut staffs, which means that lawmakers that that were able to they did have enough of a staff or enough resources to write their own legislation could definitely could not any longer. He also cut staff at some resources that are dedicated to providing research for Congress like the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service. All of these things that had been built up in response to dealing with lobbyists from like the 40s on were cut by Gingrich.
And all of a sudden, let our lawmakers are relying strictly on lobbyists for money. Yeah, and that's there's a direct correlation. I know people you know, you hear about government spending. Let's cut government spending, which in theory sounds great. Sure. Let's cut government spending. But what that means is now you don't have staff to do unbiased research and get the facts. Like you said, you've got lobbyists to do that.
Right, exactly. And the the the idea behind that tactic by Gingrich, if it was just based on I'm cutting government spending by cutting jobs or I think government's doing too much is actually a misstep because another senator from Oklahoma, his name escapes me right now. He had the Congressional Budget Office do an annual report starting in 2011, and they found that the Congressional Budget Office found that for every dollar spent on the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Budget Office managed to come up with ninety dollars of recommended cuts to government waste.
So for every dollar you spent, you made, you saved eighty nine dollars just from the Congressional Budget Office. So cutting their staff is the opposite of what you want to do, right? You're against, like, bloated, wasteful government. Yeah, it's pretty interesting. And it specifically is interesting as far as Newt Gingrich goes to, because him cutting Congress's ability to not rely on lobbyists really left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths during the 2012 primaries.
Yeah, because he was like he refused to admit that he was a lobbyist. Well, yeah. And he's he's not registered as a lobbyist. What he has is a. Well, one of the things he does, he has a health care consulting firm where you can pay two hundred thousand dollars to become a member. Quote unquote. Which you're not a client. You're a member. It's a membership group. Right. So it's and he's not the only one.
I mean, I think they have in here. They call it the revolving door, basically when you leave your position as a congressperson or senator. All right. You go directly to the lobby. The New York Times says they're more than 400 former legislators who worked as lobbyists in the past decade. Yes, just like let me go make some real money now, not just legislators either. There is very famously a guy who is running the Pentagon, I believe, Ed Eldridge, and he was a longtime critic of Boeing.
And then Boeing hired him. And on his way out, he he approved a three billion dollar contract to Boeing. That's the revolving door at work. Yeah, there is a Massachusetts representative named William Delahunt, and he took a job lobbying for a wind project that he had just earmarked a bunch of money for right before he left. So, I mean, this revolving door, people say like, well, let's just shut the revolving door. And it is it it's a proposal.
But at the same time, if you do that, then then you're anti job and you couldn't you can't even appear anti job. So there's other solutions that I think are better for dealing with the lobbying crisis. I guess you could call it.
Yeah. Well, we'll get to that later. Great article you sent. You know, it's show actually does a really great job realistically with this is Veep. I haven't seen a second of that. It's fantastic, man. I mean, it really shows you win the Emmy for best actress. Yes, she won and Veep won. And I think the writing team won it. I think it's the best written show on TV right now, but very best written comedy.
Oh, have you seen Narcos yet? Now check that out. But a veep has really, even though it's a comedy really like shows that everything in DC is just about deals being made. Right. Like, well, you do this for me and I'll give you support on this bill. Right. And they're pulling that bill. And what did that lobby say? Cause they were my friend. Right. And it's all it's all just it's such an insiders game.
Yeah, it's staggering. Yeah. And that's a comedy written by English people, which is as I write. Yeah. The producers got there and they're all like from from England. Wow. I don't know. For some reason. I guess it's so interesting. And they even in their Emmy speech said, you know, it's kind of funny to be able to make fun of the American political system being English folks. But thank you for this award for that.
All right. So let's talk a little bit about we keep saying registered lobbyists since 1876, Congress is required that all professional lobbyists register with the office of the clerk of the House. And since 1995, with the Lobbying Disclosure Act in 2007, Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, they narrowly defined a lobbyist as someone who has one paid by client to services include more than one lobbying contact. All right. And three, who's lobbying activities constitute 20 percent or more of their time on behalf of that client?
During any three month period. So that's actually, it seems broad. That's actually you have really narrow definition of a lobbyist. Yeah.
And it's so narrow as it turns out that it's really easy to skirt those rules and not register because there are many ways you can say you can really budget your time and say now, I worked twenty point nine percent in this three month period for this firm. Yeah. Or I have so many people I work for, I only spend about 10 for 15 percent of my time. Right. Or if you're less than any one group. Right. Or if you're like Newt Gingrich, you're you're not working for a client says client.
I got members, so I'm doing all this. But as for members, not clients or if it's educational, it's not called lobbying. So, hey, hey, let me just hire this former senator paying a lot of money to go around and give speeches on education that are really trying to generate interest in legislation to educate the government on why the thirty seven and a half billion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies that shelled out in 2014 is a good thing to redo and then double it.
But that's just education. That's not lobbying. So those are just some of the ways you can skirt officially registering as a lobbyist. And actually, Chuck.
So you said that that was from the 2007 act total. It was 95 in 2007. Right. You had two different acts. And in 2007, when they added I guess they added that third one about the 20 percent the time measure. Yeah. Like three thousand lobbyists D registered. Yeah. It's so easy to see that loophole. Oh really? Yeah. All I have to do is account for my time in this way and all the rules don't apply to me.
It's pretty amazing. So as a matter of fact, the American Bar Association said if you just just get rid of that third one, the time thing, that would help a lot. Yeah. And actually, when Congress first started to deal with lobbying. Well, I should say first, because it was the 19th century, but in nineteen forty five or six when they passed an act about lobbying rules. Yeah. They said that a lobbyist, a read someone who had to register as a lobbyist was anyone who aids in the passage or defeat of legislation.
That's it. Yeah. So I mean I'm sure there's loopholes in there and ways around that too. But it was much, much more vague, which in fact would sound.
It's counter-intuitive, but that's actually better. Right, to be more vague in the description. Yeah. Because you can't skirt it is easy.
So let's let's take a break and then we'll talk about all of the stuff that lobbyists do, including some good stuff to.
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All right. Lobbyists who are lobbyists, what do they do?
They are full time, as they puts it, full time advocates for their clients. Yeah, that's a good way to put it. There's no job description you're going to get, but you better be a people person. You better have. Great. You better have a stuffed Rolodex. You better you better be good at networking. Be super good at networking. Smooth talker. Yeah. You should throw good party, huh. Be good at fundraising. Yeah.
And like we said, you got to know a lot of good people. You got to be a great communicator and persuasive. Mm hmm. One might say slick. Slick I think is probably right.
But that ad that I imagine that those are good qualities to have just about any. But I also have the impression that there are lobbyists who are just like just strictly grinding out research and stuff like that. Yeah, I think there's different types of lobbyist. Some are probably like the glad handers, you know, like the front person maybe. And then there's like wonk's people who are literally like technical policy experts on a certain topic. Yeah, they know the ins and outs.
They know both sides of it. They know what senators care about it. They know what Congress people could be persuaded, maybe like they know everything about this particular issue.
Yeah. And like, up to the minute, they have to be really up on the very, very latest policies and laws. I mean, they have to be experts, like you said. Right. Like inside and out because they get paid a ton of money to do that. Yeah.
And there's typically three kinds of lobbying that people undertake. Again, whether it's the Girl Scouts or Greenpeace or the Chamber of Commerce or whoever, there's direct lobbying, indirect lobbying and grassroots lobbying.
And they probably any lobbying group takes part in all a combination of all these.
Yeah, direct lobbying is when you're when you can get a meeting with a congressperson or senator or their aides. Yeah. And you sit down with their staff or them and say, I'm experienced clearly because I'm in the room with you.
And here's here's what we think is a good piece of legislation. Right. It's good for the country. Yeah. Wink, wink. Yeah. So that's direct lobbying. Indirect is if you. Well what's the difference in indirect and social. Aren't they kind of the same. Yeah, it's the same. All right. So that's like we said, Sam Ward, we would throw parties, the king of lobbying. Yeah. He invented this in the lobby.
Social lobbying. And that's still true today, though. Big swanky D.C. cocktail hour. Yeah. And get people in the same room. Just connecting folks. That's underoath lobbying. Goosing him off with a little scotch, maybe. Mm hmm. And all of a sudden you're like you just sit back and you're like, yeah, this is working. Look at them talking to each other. And then there's grassroots lobbying, which is kind of misleading, actually, because it can be employed by deep, deeply entrenched, deep pocketed interests.
Yeah. But, you know, it still appears grassroots and folksy things like I'm paying somebody who's an expert in a field or a recognized figure or maybe a former congressperson or whatever to write an op ed. Yeah. And I mean, name recognition counts for just about anything. So even op Ed's and if so, if somebody is saying if a former Treasury secretary is like this is a really bad idea, we shouldn't pass this legislation, that's going to inform voters minds.
Yeah, I think it also is a huge message to the legislators who are also reading it that like The Washington Post published this. So a lot of people just write. You may want to listen to what I just said. Yeah. Or grassroots in the purest sense of the word. And the more traditional sense is could be a small little NGO. That's all they can afford. Right. Is grassroots campaigns. And sadly, it's it's the dog that barks the loudest is the one that's gonna get the most attention, sir.
And you're barking the loudest if you have the resources. Yeah. To I guess, get a bunch of dogs barking at once, which is a really good point, Chuck, because in this this article goes to great pains to make it clear that, you know, not all lobbying is bad, that lobbying in and of itself isn't necessarily bad, and that there are plenty of public interest groups that are dedicated to serving the common good that engage in lobbying.
So it shouldn't be outlawed. It shouldn't be cut off. We should figure out how to fix it. The thing is, is they found that for every dollar that a union and public interest group combined spends corporations. Or big business spend 34 dollars. Wow. Ninety five of the top 100 spenders were all corporate. Or corporate interests. So the field is very much skewed toward whoever has the most money or whoever is willing to spend the most.
So to be to register as a lobbyist, which is required, like I said, since 1876 and then a few years after that, they required that members of the press register because with the House and Senate, because they had lobbyists posing as journalists. Right. So they had to take care that pretty early on. But if you are registered, there are some things that you have to do according to the law. Well, first of all, you can't give gifts, blatantly give gifts.
As one of the things that guy Abramoff in trouble all sorts of ways around this, of course. But you can't blatantly give gifts. You have to register. You have to file quarterly reports that detail the contacts you've made with elected officials. You have to disclose how much money you were paid. You have to file Simmi annual reports that list contributions made to political campaigns. See that? I have a question about that, because from what I understand in on the federal level, if you're a registered lobbyist, you cannot contribute to a political campaign.
Maybe it's has to do with, like, these three thousand dollar a plate dinners or something. I don't know. Yeah. I wasn't sure about that either, handily. But you mentioned the American Bar Association. They have a lot of attorneys are lobbyists often on during their career. My uncle's actually a lobbyist. Is that right? Yeah. Congressman, my congressman. Uncle, really. He went through the revolving door, huh? Yeah. I don't know much about it, but.
Oh, man, you've got to ask him.
Yeah, I should. And I will say this, even though we're not on the same side of the political spectrum, which I won't even say who's who.
He's a Democrat, but he's a good dude and an honest person.
So, yeah, no, we don't agree on things. I always felt like he you know, he's not taking kickbacks. He's not one of those guys. And I really believe that he is a man pure of heart. And so so in no way disparaging your uncle for going through the revolving door. Right. One of the problems with that revolving door is not just that it causes this brain drain from Capitol Hill to the lobbying companies or the law law firms.
But it also makes Congress not really interested in passing any kind of lobbying reform or revolving door reform. Yeah, because pretty soon their term is going to be up and they can go get that job. Exactly. Yeah, because you don't as a public servant, I mean, you don't make a lot of money. No, you don't. And especially. Well, we'll get to this in a second. Okay. All right. But finishing on the MBA, the American Bar Association has a real interest in trying to keep lobbying as above board as possible because a lot of them want to be lobbyists and they want to be tarnished and.
Right. So like you said earlier, they think the biggest thing you can do is to separate and have really strict lines drawn between fundraising and lobbying. That's where it's the most corrupt. Yes.
So get rid of the time, the time requirement that 20 percent of your time to be a registered lobbyist. Yeah. And just separate fundraising from from lobbying. Yes.
I get the idea that that's where most of the Hinkie stuff is going on. So the thing is like that makes sense. But it's also kind of like trying to remove a hornet's nest by picking the hornets out one by one. Yeah. Not the best idea to smash it and set it on fire pretty much. And pee on the ashes.
Actually, Ali, you should leave a hornet's nest. You should never destroy a hornet's nest.
So, you know, apex predators and all, I get it. So the the other idea to just shut the revolving door or just outlaw lobbying altogether.
Again, not only is that a bad idea, especially if you just did it wholesale out of the gate, you can't do that. But it's also unconstitutional. Right. So we read this really great article, and that was good in Washington Monthly. So who wrote this thing? Lee Drutman or Drutman? Probably Drutman. And Stephen, tell us. They wrote in Washington Monthly is called A New Agenda for Political Reform.
It was a great article, lengthy, but it just and it's made a really good sense to me. Yeah. And it's not too wonky. But I mean, these guys clearly know what they're talking about.
He has people the long and short of it. What they think is the problem is what we touched on earlier, which is. Staffing of congressional offices has been cut and slashed so much and there's so much more information now to ingest than there used to be. Yeah, they just can't do it. There are not the resources to do it. So we have no choice but to turn to lobbyists, to act as the experts and to write legislation. Right.
So they propose and we have some stats in here actually that I thought were pretty striking in the 80s, around 1980 is when they started cutting everything, the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Services. What they do is they provide nonpartisan policy and program analysis to lawmakers. There are 20 percent fewer now than in 1979. And those are the very experts that were dedicated to serving Congress in a nonpartisan way so that they had all the information they needed to create legislation to actually make the government operate 20 percent fewer than the 1970s yet.
So gone, gone starting in the 80s and then again in the mid 90s, Gingrich cut congressional staff. Yeah. And while this is going on, it's a two way street. Lobbying is increasing right by. It's staggering how much lobbying has an increase in money and just human power.
And then one of the things about lobbying is that lobbying begets lobbying. The more lobbyists can get legislation pushed through. The larger the Federal Register grows, the less ability any given Congress person has to read and ingest and understand federal law. Yeah. So the more they need lobbyists who do understand it. Yeah. And so what you get is what we talked about the revolving door. Well actually that's politicians themselves going to lobby. Well, but there is a brain drain because their aides are being sucked away by a K Street as well.
There's another cycle where there's no incentive to be a congressional staffer for very long because you're not going to make much money. I think they said the top 90th percentile of a congressional staff makes one hundred one hundred thousand dollars a year. That's the top 90th percentile is what sounds like six figures. That's good. This is not cheap now. And take our taxes and everything that the median income was 50 grand. All right. So you're making, what, like 35 after taxes, right?
You can't live on thirty five thousand dollars in D.C. And they found that the median income for a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. median is three hundred thousand. And that's pretty attractive, especially if you're in your 20s and all of a sudden can go double or triple your income, like right out of the gate. Well, it's the career path, right? It's laid out there for everyone. Here's what you do. Go work on a staff for a little while.
Make contacts, which is invaluable. That's why you do it for not a whole lot of money. Right. And then, boom, you can get rich. Make a lot of money as a lobbyist. So Drutman and tell us suggest first and foremost that the solution to the lobbying conundrum that we have now is basically equip Congress with the information, research and policy experts that they need. Yeah. And the that they can get the stuff that they're currently getting from lobbyists.
And the way you do that start is is just increased salaries. And they make a really good point that you don't have to necessarily increase the salaries to to be completely on par with what K Street's offering. Now, of course, in his case, we would probably just try to start to outspend, just raise salaries. But if you can do it so that a person could make a pretty decent living, they would possibly choose congressional work over K Street because with congressional work, they're in there.
They're like part of this machine that's really making decisions and policies and laws that are affecting the country rather than working for a law firm that's trying to get some some legislation passed that will benefit this one corporate client. So if you just factor in idealism along with a really good salary, these guys say you could attract the right talent that you need. So their recommendation simply I mean, it's multifold, but they say double committee staff triple the money that they make.
Mm hmm. And you might be stepping in the right direction. Yeah.
And again, if you're like movil. Whoa, that's a lot of taxpayer money. Well, again, if you if you look at what the CBO alone spending a dollar and the CBO comes up with ninety dollars worth of places to cut government waste. These are these are these are good things to spend money on. Yeah. And you may have a cleaner, more legitimate government as you ought to, and that's priceless. Yeah.
I mean, they made some some excellent case that in the 70s when the government had a lot of staff that was smart, that had a lot of institutional memory and knowledge that they got things done like the church committee. Yeah. And the Pike Committee, both of which revealed massive, horrible stuff that the CIA was doing, like dosing unsuspecting Americans with LSD. Yeah. That came out of congressional investigations that you do not see any longer. No. If you had committee staff that were well-paid, they would hang around and you would have a lot more laws being passed, a lot more deliberations being passed.
Right now, it's all fundraising going on. That's what your legislators do. They get elected. They come to Washington, have their picture taken there, and then they go back out and start raising money for re-election. Right. Yeah. And they're raising money from the very people who are working as lobbyists. So, yeah, all you have to do is create good jobs. Yeah. Incentivize rational researchers. And you've got your lobbying problem largely licked.
Yeah, I agree, man. I don't see any problem with this idea. It's it's sad whenever we dig in this stuff like this. How. Like I talked about the insider's club. How I know it just seems like it's such a broken, messed up system. It is. There is another thing I read about something called rent seeking, which is where through lobbyists the corporation will go and just try to get a piece of the pie. Yeah.
Not for doing anything. Not even necessarily a contract, but to say like a subsidy. Yeah. And like the fossil fuel subsidies amounted to thirty seven and a half billion dollars in 2014. That was just stuff that the government gave just money. The government gave oil and other fossil fuel companies just for existing. Right. And that's called rent seeking. It doesn't do anything. They don't. They're not producing anything to generate that income. They're spending a bunch of income to go suck it out of the federal budget.
Right. And I mean, if you want to talk about wealth redistribution, that's like the the clear, clearest version of it you can possibly imagine.
Yeah. And that's through lobbying.
Yeah. And this is just lobbying. Like, don't get me started on things like campaign finance and all the other ways. That's another one we should do. Yeah. I actually wrote that article. Man how was it. A bit. It was depressing.
It was depressing and tough and it's probably way out of date. So we will update it. Yeah.
It would need a lot like our dating Senate campaign finance reform. Big, big thing. Remember our presidential debates, one that was eye opening. Remember, there's like a whole commission that, like, has a stranglehold on presidential debates. And we do a show and they serve. Yeah. Have no regard to go back unless it's is a good one. Most have a moment. Yeah, I remember that. Oh, no. Oh no. We'll eat it soon.
Well, if you want to know more about lobbying, you can type that word in the search bar at HowStuffWorks and it will bring up this fine article. And since they said it's past time for listener mail.
All right. I'm gonna call this binge listening.
Colline, newest to oldest dudes. And Jerry, by the way, I labored over that subject line like a publicist, and it's still awful. Is what Colin said, calling dudes. And Jerry been slowly making my way through the catalog of episodes. And for any new listeners, I'd like to advocate for listening through them from newest to oldest. In other words, reverse order rather than oldest to newest, which is how I assume most would listen while the references to old episodes might be a little confusing.
They also build a sense of anticipation when I could see that. For example, I finally listened to the infamous episode on The Sun. You made it so many references over the years to how bad that episode was that by the time I got to it, I was literally laughing from beginning to end. So it becomes like a comedy episode that can you can almost hear Chuck's brain sizzling and melting as the episode went on. True, mine did, too.
If I didn't have that sense of anticipation, your agony would have been as sweet. I like this idea. I think he makes a lot of sense. I dread the day that I run out of episodes and the withdrawals, the shakes, the Jimmy legs that will inevitably come when I'm Jones and for new stuff. And that is Colin and or land.
All right, Colin, great email, terrible subject line, but totally forgivable because of the body of seven poopy binge listening was the oldest siccing.
I guess it's a it's just this.
You'd better come. Great e-mail calling. Oh, but if he's listening. Has he? He hasn't made it all the way back. Well, if he's listening, there was the oldest. So does he just make time each week to listen to the newest one and then go back to wherever he live? I don't know. Well, you can hear this. We need to hear a follow up. God knows when you'll hear this. Chuck, we need to contact him directly.
I'm feeling a great sense of regret. I feel bad for him because he's just heading straight for disappointment land as he goes further back in the cattle. And there's some episodes I'd just like to just redo, which we have done. So I'm like, well, they were like five minutes and they were two topics.
You know, we should just remove those from the Internet. Let's do.
I would like to redo the trolley problem. You know, I didn't do I do with Chris Polet and I it deserves like some big current modern incarnations. Instead, you shouldn't like. We should try redo all the ones. I wasn't on holiday.
Let's do it. We'll call it the summer of Chuck. Yeah. If you want to be like Colin and get in touch with us and let us scrutinize your words, you can tweet to us. That's why STK podcast, you can join us on Facebook dot com slash stuff. You know, you can send us an email to Stuff podcast at HowStuffWorks dot com. And as always, join us at our home on the web stuff you should know dot com.
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