Corporate America Wins Again –
Last week Senate Republicans passed a tax bill that hands massive tax breaks to corporations and the rich at the expense of low-income and middle-class Americans. Waiting in the wings on Capitol Hill are proposed GOP spending bills that would help the wealthy winners in this year’s epic tax rewrite lock in their power.
Republicans have hidden “policy riders” in the fine print of those bills that will further open the floodgates to big money in politics — while making darn sure we can’t find out where it’s coming from. That’s a surefire way to guarantee that the special interests and billionaires bankrolling federal elections get to increase their influence in Washington without any annoying scrutiny from voters.
Even the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court seems to agree. When they unleashed corporate political spending in Citizens United, Justice Kennedy wrote for the court that prompt online disclosure would enable shareholders to “determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interests in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called money interests.” That transparency, Kennedy said, would “enable the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
Swamp Lobbyists –
The who’s who of special interests descended on Washington to lobby for corporate interests during 2017 to exert influence over the policies for American tax reform laws recently passed. Nearly 6,500 lobbyists were hired to represent corporate America in the tax debate in 2017.
Lobbying disclosure laws do not require organizations to disclose the amount they spend on individual issues, but they do require organizations to disclose the names of lobbyists on individual clusters of issues. Therefore, calculating the number of lobbyists on a particular issue is the only obtainable measure of an organizations attempt to influence the outcome of domestic policy issues in Washington.
An unprecedented number of lobbyists, more than half of the 11,000 registered, sunk their teeth in to influence the resulting tax reform laws recently passed. Among them, 44 individuals with ties to Trump or Pence acted as registered lobbyists in 2017.
President Trump’s campaign rally cry of “Drain the Swamp” included a five point plan for ethics reform in Washington which included cracking down on lobbyists, particularly the phenomenon known as the “revolving door” in which individuals move back and forth between the government working as highly paid lobbyists. Yet swarms of lobbyists were welcomed to the Trump transition team which was tasked with performing such key functions as recommending appointees to the incoming administration and shaping its policies. Those with ties to Trump raced to engage in the same behavior that Trump decried on the campaign trail: cashing in on insider connections.
In June 2017, Public Citizen – a nongovernmental organization founded in 1971 by Ralph Nader that fights for openness and democratic accountability in government – reported that the Trump administration had appointed 133 past or present registered lobbyists to executive branch positions, including 36 who had recently lobbied on issues of direct relevance to their new government posts. This report looks at the phenomenon of people going the other direction, using their connections to Trump or Vice President Mike Pence to initiate or expand their lobbying careers.
According to Corey Lewandowski, who maintained close ties to Trump even after being fired as his campaign manager, Trump did not take his “drain the swamp” promise seriously. “If you had to put them into chronological order, drain the swamp is probably somewhere down the bottom,” compared with other Trump priorities. While Lewandowski defended this statement by citing that tax reform, jobs for the middle class, and renegotiating trade deals are higher on the priority list; it certainly questions the legitimacy of the “Drain the Swamp” rhetoric that was the hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Additional Reading: Analysis: More than 6,000 lobbyists have worked on taxes in 2017