Being a Congress critter is not as cushy a job as many assume. After all, they have to write legislation, organize hearings, write speeches, round up votes, and do all sorts of other legislative-y things to pass laws.
Oh, wait — my mistake. Members now have staffs to do all that, including telling the esteemed legislators how to vote.
Few people are aware that congressional staffs have mushroomed and gained far-reaching control over legislation. While the mass media have ignored this power shift, which further removes the people from the making of our laws, corporate lobbyists have long understood it and assiduously wooed staff members with flattery and gifts.
But then it dawned on lobbyists that instead of wooing staff — they should simply become the staff. So, when Republicans took charge of the Senate in January, K Street moved right into the Capitol Hill offices of the new corporate-hugging majority.
What a sight to see Tom Chapman, top lobbyist for US Airways, now sitting atop the legal staff of the Senate Aviation panel that oversees — guess who? — US Air.
And there's Joel Leftwich, senior lobbyist for PepsiCo, where he has pushed furiously to water down the Agriculture Department's nutrition standards for school lunches. Now he can do much more for the peddler of Pepsi cola and Cheetos, for he's the new staff director for the Senate Ag Committee, which will rewrite the school lunch funding law this year. What a coincidence!
How about mega-lobbyist Mark Isakowitz, whose specialty is punching loopholes in the Wall Street reform law? As new chief of staff for Sen. Rob Portman, Mark is now punching from the inside, and he's already slipped a special regulatory exemption into law on behalf of big derivative traders like GE and the Koch brothers.
If you voted Republican last fall, is this the change you wanted?
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.
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