Sunday, October 14, 2007

Opinion: Is money a problem in politics? What big or small changes should be made to the system (if any)?

Getting Around Rules on Lobbying
Despite New Law, Firms Find Ways To Ply Politicians
By Elizabeth WilliamsonWashington Post Staff Writer Sunday, October 14, 2007; Page A01

In recent days, about 100 members of Congress and hundreds of Hill staffers attended two black-tie galas, many of them as guests of corporations and lobbyists that paid as much as $2,500 per ticket.

Because accepting such gifts from special interests is now illegal, the companies did not hand the tickets directly to lawmakers or staffers. Instead, the companies donated the tickets back to the charity sponsors, with the names of recipients they wanted to see and sit with at the galas.

The arrangement was one of the most visible efforts, but hardly the only one, to get around new rules passed by Congress this summer limiting meals, travel, gifts and campaign contributions from lobbyists and companies that employ them.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) found bipartisan agreement on maintaining one special privilege. Together they put language into a defense appropriations bill that would keep legal the practice of some senators of booking several flights on days they return home, keeping the most convenient reservation and dumping the rest without paying cancellation fees -- a practice some airlines say could violate the new law.

Senators also have granted themselves a grace period on requirements that they pay pricey charter rates for private jet travel. Lobbyists continue to bundle political contributions to lawmakers but are now making sure the totals do not trigger new public reporting rules. And with presidential nominating conventions coming next summer, lawmakers and lobbyists are working together to save another tradition endangered by the new rules: the convention party feting (celebrating) one lawmaker.

"You can't have a party honoring a specific member. It's clear to me -- but it's not clear to everybody," said Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate ethics committee. She said the committee is getting "these questions that surround the edges -- 'If it's midnight the night before,' 'If I wear one shoe and not the other.' "

Democrats touted the new ethics law as the most thorough housecleaning since Watergate, and needed after a host of scandals during 12 years of Republican rule. Prompted by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's wheeling and dealing and the jailing of three members of Congress on corruption charges in recent years, the law, signed by President Bush on Sept. 14, was heralded by congressional leaders as a real change in Washington's influence game.

But the changes have prompted anxiety about what perks are still permissible. In recent months, the House and Senate ethics committees have fielded more than 1,000 questions from lobbyists and congressional staffers seeking guidance -- or an outright waiver -- for rules banning weekend trips and pricey wedding gifts, five-course dinners and backstage passes.
Looking for ways to keep spreading freebies legally, hundreds of lobbyists have been attending seminars at Washington law firms to learn the ins and outs of the new law.

At a recent American League of Lobbyists briefing, Cleta Mitchell of the Foley & Lardner law firm said that while the law bans lobbyists from buying lawmakers or staffers a meal, it is silent on picking up bar tabs. A woman in the third row asked hopefully, "You can buy them as many drinks as you want, as often as you want?"

No, Mitchell said, not unless the drinkers are the lobbyist's personal friends, and she pays from her own pocket.

If that rule was clear to some, two charity dinners allowed hazier interpretations.
(...this article continues at www.washingtonpost.com)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/13/AR2007101301275.html

37 comments:

RyanO said...

I think money is a problem in politics. Special interest groups hold too much sway in politician's decisions. I think laws should be made to reduce the amount of lobbying that is practiced.

KellyH said...

I also think money is a problem in politics. Politicians shouldn't accept money and bribes in exchange for a vote. First you could tighten up the law already passed, for example so bar tabs would be covered. Find out what lobbyists are doing to get around the law and then fix it as best you can. Unfortunately, it probably won't work because they'll just find more loopholes.

MorganJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MorganJ said...

Money IS a problem in politics! There is no question in my mind that money plays too big of a role in politics. Free meals, travel, gifts, and campaign money—all are given to congressmen and congress women as attempts to win votes. Unfortunately, I see no halt of bribery any time soon. Like our gov book said, people are driven by self-interest. As long as there is self-interest, there are going to be big corporations looking to further themselves.

It aggravates me that money plays such an extreme role in politics. I want our government to be for the people again—not the "big wigs." We need good politicians in office, not dirty ones. I know that this will never fully happen, but it is my ideal.

There is nothing more the government can do. Every time it makes an attempt to restrict “gift giving,” big industry finds a way to go around it.

The only thing that can end “dirty politics” is the people; we need to elect honest bureaucrats into office. This means we need to investigate more before we vote.

DanielleT said...

Not only is politics ran by money but the entire world is. It's a given, if you have money you have the upper hand. Unfortunately, there’s no way that we can eliminate every wrong doing of politics. There’s people who make a living by finding loopholes in the law. As long as there are laws, there are loopholes and loopholes aren’t illegal. Therefore, we can only hope that the laws we pass are as precise and descriptive as possible making it so getting around them is way more difficult and risky. I would wish that when dealing with the control of a country, people would be more honest and earn what they receive. It’s a shame that the only way for people to get what they want is by lying and deceiving the public. However, until all of human society is able to live under honest hard-work and morals, I don’t see much of a change in the politics scene.

jamieg said...

I think that more attention needs to be paid to the lobbyists finding loopholes and such; there needs to be stricter consequences on the politicians taking part. These are the people running our country, making huge decisions that will affect our lives. Nobody can really expect politicians to be honest, but this wouldn't be a bad place to start.

JamieW said...

Money is a huge problem in politics. Look how much money campaigns use. If you have more money backing your campaign than anyone else- you have a better chance of winning. Politicans should know better than to accept money and bribes just so they get a vote. But politicans aren't dumb people, and can find a loophole in almost anything. Being more specific in laws could decrease the amount of loopholes, but regardless of what we do- I'm sure bribery will still continue, that's just how it is.

Vlad said...

Politics has many problems. Money is one of them. The American public becomes discouraged in participating in politics because they feel their opinions will not be heard. This article sparked a memory of Mike Gravel's accusations of Barack Obama taking money from special interest groups. http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/summary.asp?id=N00000019&cycle=2008
Another problem in politics, is the whole idea of legacy. It seems like anybody who doesn't have some sort of a connection in Washington has a very small chance of winning their election. I was exposed to the problem of dynasty in politics when I saw the documentary, "Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?" this past summer.
Anyway, as many people have said above ^, this problem is here to stay and not much can be done to fix it.

CoreyA said...

Money is a problem only in the bribery sense. Donating money for special privellages is rather offensive to me. But in all actuallity, the donation is actually done by the corporations and not by the actually politicians and henceforth, I can not see anything really being done to stop that. You can try to limit what kind of donations they are allowed to except, but when it comes right down to it, if I own my own business, I should be allowed to offer privellages to my friends, shouldn't I? If I owned my own movie theater, I'd allow my friends in for free, and no one would have any problem with that. If I own an air plane, I could give my friends free flights, couldn't I? And again, no one would have a problem with that. But, if my friend were running for president, then it's considered bribery? Where does Congress get the right to decide what I can and cannot do with a business that I own? Sure there are ethical laws they can enforce, but nothing like this. Money is a problem, sure, but there really is not much Congress can do about it that they haven't already tried. But, eh, coming to a 17 year old kid for an answer to how to solve one of politics biggest problems was a silly idea to begin with...

BrookeS said...

As the article mentioned several times, members of Congress are making laws they will not even follow! (Somewhat scary when we find hypocrisy in our own government system!) Plus, the other question is 'where would all of this money go if it were not given to members of Congress?' Are large corporations simply throwing away money to the representatives when it could be spent elsewhere where it is much more needed? I believe the Senate ethics committee needs to step in and make some REAL changes to the system. Enforcing new laws directed strictly at lawmakers and corporations could reduce or eliminate these all-too-good perks.

aly mac said...

Money is without a doubt a major problem in politics. Our country was founded on the idea that anyone, despite economic status should be given the opportunity to run for office. Today, however, if politicians don't have tons of money for their campaigns or aren't supported by "big money" they have no chance at all of getting into office. I believe that campaign financial control needs to be implemented in order to balance opportunities fairly among politicians. If we don't have some type of limit on how much candidates can spend on their campaigns, we will never solve this problem. I know the McCain Feingold campaign finance bill attempted to address this, but came up short. We need stronger legislation to be put into action in order to stop the excessive spending, catering only to the wealthiest Americans making it into the highest office positions.

Jbyko10 said...

I do think money is a problem in politics. Politicians are getting paid off or being bribed. Money should only be used for debating and campaign purposes. Like ryan said, lobbying is a something that needs to be reduced.

Christina S said...

It's clear to me that money is a problem in politics. A big problem. It's disapointing to think that the politicians that end up in office are the ones with the most money. As long as there are laws, there are going to be loopholes. As precise as the laws are, there are still ways to get around them. I'm not sure there are any changes that would be effective.

Erica C said...

Money is definitely a problem in politics. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that making tighter laws will help. As mentioned before, where there is a will, there is a way. Money is a huge bargaining chip in politics and people will still manipulate the powerful with it.

I don't think making changes to the system will do anything. The only way to change how politicians and lobbyists do business is to change public opinion. If the people start calling out politicians for their underhanded behavior, problems could slowly be solved.

mente said...

I believe that money is a huge problem in politics, and I don't think that any tighter laws could change that. People will always find loopholes; it's in their nature.

Sadly, the world of politics is very corrupt... then again, what isn't these days.

Apparently I'm an uber cynic, but it's true.

newkirk said...

I think that money is a big problem in politics and in the campaigns, but I don't see an end to the bribery in the near future. There is always going to be that loophole in the law, no law is perfect. People are going to find ways around it, hopefully we can minimize the number of people that do.

jahir d said...

Money money money... evil? A problem? I think not.
Money is not the root of all evil, the love of money is. Though I am sure most of you have heard that before, this simple thought gets too often overlooked. Political campaigns need money, and lots of it, to run a successful campaign. No TV or radio station plays campaign ads for free, nor do any advisers work for the mere thought of doing a good deed. The truth of the matter is that campaigns are extremely expensive, and that no candidate can truly afford to turn away any contributors.
The real money related problem in politics is that when candidates receive large sums of money, they cater to that person's or that corporation’s special interests, because they want to get more money if they happen to run again. This is the love of money which the phrase refers to. If one thinks about it, if a candidate receives large amounts of money from a corporation, it is the candidate, not "big business", who has to vote on the issues. It is up to the elected official to represent the best interests of those who elected him (or her). If they let their love of money affect their decisions, then it is on their conscience, not the corporations.

When politicians decide that they won’t be bribed, the corporations will stop trying to buy votes from them. Until that day which will never come is upon us, we're screwed.

I say that day will never come because everyone is driven by self-interest, everyone wants to get ahead, everyone seeks power. It is my belief that people seek national office for the prestige and power, just as much, if not more, than for the chance to do something “good”. This is why money affects them so much, because it is simply a means to end. It’s something you need to get elected, and then reelected, and reelected after that, and if they can get the big contributors to contribute again, why not?

jahir d said...

By the way, if any of you had the pleasure of meeting me and would like to contact me, my email is

jahir.drago@mu.edu

email me if you'd like to catch up, or even if you're simply interested in coming to Marquette U. next year and would like an insider's opinion. (And yes, you can contact me even if you have no idea who I am)

shannond said...

Alright, so obviously money is a big issue when it comes to politics. Between $400 haircuts and $2,500 meals, money is spent frivolously in Washington. But money may be a little harder to come by, now that those freebies politicians once received are diminishing. I think this new law signed by President Bush is a great step toward eliminating special treatment for politicians. For an example, let’s take a look at the presidential candidates. All of them are wealthy and can afford to pay for anything they would be receiving as a freebie. I do not think it is wrong to make a man or woman pay for their own food at dinner for cancellation fees for a ticket they canceled. To borrow a line from Bill Clinton, politicians are “citizens” and should not be treated differently because they have money to spend. What sense does it make anyway to give free stuff to people who can afford it? I believe this law will help cut down any biases in votes that politicians make for certain corporations or companies that donate to them. This law might also cause presidential candidates to realize just how important their campaign money is. Looks like those $400 haircuts are luxuries of the past.

KimK said...

Wow, Jahir, are you trying to make up for all the times you forgot to post last year or something? :) haha-I was just getting sick of doing some homework and someone was just telling me a story of how she fainted while seeing Obama the other day here, which naturally got me thinking back to AP Gov and this blog...and I noticed Jahir is still blogging...and a rather lengthy response at that!

amandak said...

I agree with Jahir (but don't you have some real homework to do?) Politicians need money to finance their campaign. (I'm trying desperately to find the average cost of a campaign, but I can't). Someone has to be paying for these campaigns, and it sure as heck isn't the candidates themselves. Obviously a portion of this money is donated by individual citizens, but a campaign can't survive without donations from lobbyists. Money can corrupt, but it isn't evil by definition.

JamieW said...

I agree with Manda that money isn't even by definition. It's clear that most people think money is a problem in politics. I have already posted on this one, but I have been thinking a little deeper on the topic. Is lunch and a picture with Mayor Rudy Giuliani REALLY worth $2300? That is ridiculous if you ask me! Not to mention his apperence in Wisconsin was inviation only. He did sign baseballs outside of the club for younger voters who obviously didn't have the money to hear Mayor Giuliani's views on terrorism and the economy-and were simply not invited to the event. Barack Obama had a different approach for a lot less money, going to the University of Wisconsin- Madison to talk to students with a charge of only 15 dollars. It seems to me that money will continue being a problem in politics when canidates think $1300 to have a picture with them is reasonable. I could just be crazy- anybody have an opinion on this?

RyanO said...

I do believe that bribery is a large problem in government, but I think that the way government officials can spend the government's own money by earmarking is more ridiculous. "Pork" has become a much larger problem than most people make it out to be. Millions of dollars are being spent in areas that aren't necessarily the places that need it the most, but they are the places where those who earmarked came from. So basically they try to get a lot of money through to their congressional district so the people in that district will reelect him/her.

ericag said...

First... Ryan why were you up at 7:20 this morning. It's the weekend you need to sleep to be re-energized for you state race. [[congrats]]

Two i agree with Manda people in gov. need money to campaign. Government officals trying to find loopholes such and bar tabs... is a problem. Government officals need to minimized the loopholes people can get through, but the money supply needs to come from somewhere.

jzurko said...

Ok so generally, money is a problem in politics. A majority of the time the person who raises the most funds wins the election. So--candidates running for re-election are likely to make policy decisions favorable to their biggest contributors. Stricter punishments and laws might help a little, but people generally have a way of working around them. Funding elections with more national funds and little or no outside funds might make a larger difference in the money corruption problem in politics but I doubt it would generate much popular sentiment.
Which leaves me to my last point. The only way the money problem can be changed in politics is by the public keeping an eye on their elected officials and making it known they don't support candidates who base policy on their biggest campaign contributors.

jzurko said...

oh and erica. btw the time is two hours off our time zone.
so ryan posted at 920... not 720.

KellyH said...

Ok, so I think everyone pretty much agrees that money is a big problem, and the general thought is that the people need to stop supporting these cnadidates and let it be known they won't support anyone who bases what they stand for on the people who are giving them the most freebies or money. So I'm going to start a new train of thought and maybe other people will have an opinion on it.

What other big problems there are in politics besides money?

Vlad said...

I think legacy is a problem.

KatieKso said...

I believe that money is a problem in politics. If enough money is donated a political figure's opinions can easily be swayed and changed. I feel that this recently passed law is a good idea and will help limit the amount of influence money has in politics. More laws could probably be passed to help solve this issue, but it is best to wait and see how this one works out before creating any more related laws.

Lisa Marie said...

Money is definitely a probelm in politics. It does not help that everything is based on money in the time frame we are in. If you don't have money then its like you dont fit in, because supposedly only 4% are unemployed, but thats not the subject. I believe that anyone who is running will try and use money to give themselves power. Money doesn't hurt to have, but I really do not believe in bribery. I think we should block the loopholes that the lobbyists are "getting through". People should vote because of the person, not whats in their pockets.

Jake_H said...

I believe that money is a problem in politics. The presidential hopefuls spend millions of dollers to try and become presidant. Tha money could be used in more helpful ways. Also special interest groups will buy votes in congress.

Erica T said...

I think money is definitely a huge problem. The people running our country need to be making decisions based on what is best for the country. When somebody gets involved in politics to that level, it should be because they are passionate about it and want to impact and change things in our country, not because of the fincancial perks. Another governmental issue concerning money that was not really touched on in th article is electoral campaigns. I understand it is necessary for money and donations to be a huge part of that, however when it comes to strongly opinionated and rich people that give loads of money to the campaign they want to win, they're affecting the campaigns and consequently (potentially), the outcome of the election soley because they had enough money to impact it.

Angelina said...

Money is everything in the world. You need to get anywhere, but I think it's a BIG problem in politics. Trying to make changes to stop this would be pretty hard, because there is always going to be people that are money hungry, and that are easily bribed. If laws are put into place we can at least stop some.

arletap said...

WIthout a doubt, money is a problem. It determines the past, present and future. Regardless of tighter laws or stricter regulations, there will be the inevitable loopholes that all politicians (and their lawyers) so diligently search for in order to work in their best interests. Yet I can't really see a successful campaign made by someone lacking the proper finances and/or connections. People seem to be bored by the truth and the simple; they're much more interested in the elaborate plans and the appealing special effects. "Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?" is a perfect example of the political reality: no money? No chance.

cmorgan said...

Of course money is a problem in politics. Other than the obvious one, bribary, money has its ways to cause mayhem and controversy in politics. Many people believe the more money a politician has, the greater the chance he/she has at being elected. Is this true, yes but not competely. Money along with certain views and opinions increase of decrease chances of success. I believe stricter laws against certain uses of money in politics could control it to a point but I doubt the use of money to levy oneself can ever be completely stopped.

rebeccas said...

Money is a problem. You can't run if you don't have money. You have to be well-known as well, which requires money. How to fix it, other than the government funding each nominee, I don't know. I'm not sure that would even work.

Alex the Great said...

i think that the fact that you need millions of dollars to win a presidential electionis a very bad thing. we need to find a way to ban special interest groups from making large donations to certain campaigns in order to gain influence if the nominee gets elected. the president can not do his job properly if he owes someone a favor.