Government of the Lobbyists, by the Lobbyists, for the Lobbyists…

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There were 14,000 lobbyists in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Those 14,000 lobbyists spent $3.3 billion dollars. That means that, in order to lobby for the health insurance lobby, the media, the oil companies, the financial companies and, yes, the unions spend $6,128,224 for each member of Congress. How much did you spend last year on members of Congress? By the way, whatever we all spent is not included. So you can see the enormity of the problem.

We need term limits. We should have severe restrictions on how long a person can be in Congress. Senators should be term-limited to one term. Congress persons should be limited to four terms…8 years total. We need stricter limitations on what relationships Congress and Senate representatives can have. People should be able to visit Congressmen and women in their offices by appointment. If it is someone from a lobbying group, they can schedule an appointment like anyone else.

Do you wonder who owns Congress? Here are the expenditures for the top lobbyists in 2008.

The United States Chamber of Commerce………. $91,725,000

EXXON/ Mobil Oil………………………………………$29,000,000

AARP……………………………………………………$27,900,000

Pacific Gas & Electric…………………………………$27,250,000

Northrop Grumman……………………………………$27,743,252

American Medical Association……………………. $20,555,000

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers……………………..$20,220,000

American Hospital Association……………………..$20,102,684

Koch Industries………………………………………$20,023,000

General Electric………………………………………$19,379,000

So those are the top ten. It is interesting that three of the top ten (plus GE which makes expensive equipment for the health care industry) are involved in the health care debate up to their ears and spent jointly over $60,000,000 last year. This year they have already spent over $30,000,000. Some may wonder who Koch Industries is and why they spend so much money. Koch Industries is the largest privately-held corporation in the U.S., with over 70,000 employees and revenues by some estimates as high as $100 billion in revenues. It is larger than Microsoft and AT&T. It is the fourth-largest oil and gas company in the U.S.

Does lobbying work? You decide. During the 1990s, Koch was responsible for over 300 spills, with penalties of $35 million. In Minnesota, it was fined an additional $8 million for discharging toxic substances into streams. Then in 2000, it hit the jackpot with $352 million in fines and possible jail time for executives as part of a 97-count indictment by the federal government for illegal release of huge amounts of benzene, a serious carcinogen, into streams in Texas. If convicted, the company faced fines of up to $352 million, plus possible jail time for company executives. After George W. Bush was elected, however, almost all the charges were dropped. The company settled, paying only a tiny fraction of the original fine.

Could it have been coincidence that Koch had contributed $800,000 to the Bush election campaign? It probably also did not hurt that the original founder of Koch, Fred Koch, was a founder of the John Birch Society, and Charles Koch, his son and, with his brother David, head of the Koch Family Foundation, founded the Cato Insittute. The Koch Foundation are also either co-founders or large supporters of Right-Wing, Conservative organizations like Citizens for a Sound Economy, Reason Magazine, the Manhattan Institute, the Heartland Institute and the Democratic Leadership Council. Those organizations have spawned other Right Wing organizations over time.

For more on the Koch Foundation, you can go to SourceWatch.

If you would like to see what President Obama and Congress are up against in the battle for health care reform, consider this.  Last year,   Pharmaceuticals and Health Products put up $236, 022, 031 to get lawmakers into a frame of mind compatible with theirs.  Insurance companies, a large part of which is most of the health insurance companies, spent $153,694,224. Hospitals and Nursing homes spent another $101,680,076. And finally, health professionals spent $77,883,292.  If you put all that together…just for 2008…you get  plus or minus (a million here, a million there) $600 million dollars in health care lobbying expenditures. There is no way we can match those funds. But it does show the enormity of the problem and the reasons individual citizens must call, write and contribute to candidates who will support health care reform with a public option.