Quote of the day

Today we heard from several lobbyists, including a lobbyist for a large, public university, a lobbyist for the American Medical Association, and one for the American Physical Society. I think they wanted to make the point that not all lobbyists are evil and that they perform an important function in our government. They emphasized direct trading of money for votes is illegal, and mentioning campaign donations while in a representative’s or senator’s office is illegal. Also, many lobbyists and lobbying firms have rules about the kinds of clients they will take on and won’t lobby for the tobacco industry, for instance. On the other hand, there is no doubt that money makes politics go; the average House representative has to raise $10,000 per week to mount a competitive reelection campaign. Political donors get priority when congress members and congressional staff are choosing who to meet with. The speakers admitted that other lobbyists (not like them) are simply available to the highest bidder, and one mentioned that the going rate to buy 15 minutes with your representative is $5000.

Nonprofit organizations, however, like public universities and scientific societies, are prohibited from making campaign contributions. They must rely on appeals to reason, to abstract benefits, and goodwill toward their institutions to gain influence. And so the quote of the day comes from the university lobbyist, who lamented, “being a higher education lobbyist is like being a eunuch at the orgy.”

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