Sunday, January 08, 2006

Lobby Love

The title of my post harkens to a song written by friends at BYU as freshman. Based on the song 'Tainted Love,' it lamented the unfortunate displays of affection that we were sometimes subjected to in good ol' Jean Fossum May Hall. Today I am writing about a different kind of Lobby Love, once often less public and possibly more repulsive.

You may have heard about Jack Abramoff, the super-lobbyist turned felon. His guilty plea promised the naming of names in criminal corruption cases, presumably involving members of Congress. This has led to a lot of talk about reform. Michael Barone wrote a piece in Opinion Journal and it provides historical perspective on the lobbyist issue:

The Washington lobbying community goes back a long way. The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances": Lobbyists, like the clergy and the press, are a profession protected by the Constitution.

I'd bet that few Americans are aware of that fact. Love them or hate them, lobbyists will always be with us. The Abramoff scandal and its expected fallout have impelled some politicians to action, as Byron York explains. The expected public outcry over Abramoff's misdeed will lead the inevitable push for reform. But reform may not be necessary:

After all, it is already illegal to bribe officeholders and defraud your clients, as Mr. Abramoff has admitted doing. It's already illegal to accept bribes, as Mr. Abramoff's plea agreement suggests at least one member of Congress has done. No reform is needed to prosecute that.

It is likely that reform bills will still be proffered, and some version will pass. This may not be a good thing. This book by Instapundit author Glenn Reynolds and another looks at how post-Watergate reform led to undesirable outcomes. Looking at the Congressional knee-jerk reaction to things like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, there is little reason to think that this time around will be any different.


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