A Bribe by Any Other Name

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. True, there are earnest, honest senators and representatives. And earnest, ethical lobbyists who provide essential, albeit slanted, information needed to formulate legislation.

As Diogenes wrote to us a while back, both specimens may be hard to find — and even harder to insulate from subsequent corruption. Still, surely they exist.

But you don’t want to read about endangered species in the Beltway, so let’s talk about bankers in China.

J.P. Morgan makes fees bigger than parade dragons in that mysterious land, facilitated by the fact that they hire the sons and daughters of high ranking corporate and government officials.

That’s not uncommon, and the sons and daughters may be bright, capable people. But if there is a quid quo pro – if J.P. Morgan were to get big contracts from the parents’ agencies or companies as a direct result of the hiring – that would be bribery under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. And that’s what the SEC, the FBI, and Hong Kong authorities are busy these days trying to determine.

Our question is this. Why isn’t there a Domestic Corrupt Practices Act to look into the quid pro quo relationships between lobbyists and congressmen?

As of 1974, according to The Economist, 3% of retiring policymakers became lobbyists. Now 50% of senators and 42% of congressman do that.

Special interests now spend $3.5 billion a year – that we know of — lobbying the federal government. And beyond the money they pour directly into campaign funds and other things dear to the hearts of congresspeople, there are those cushy, highly paid jobs they are dangling in front of them.

Why would a senator spoil his or her chances for a hugely enriching sinecure at a lobbying firm by putting the American people’s interests ahead of the lobbyist’s?

Until we can get a Domestic Corrupt Practices Act passed (over the fierce objections of all lobbyists and all members of congress who like money), couldn’t we at least change the name of K Street to Bribery Boulevard?

This entry was posted in Beltway Anthropology, Follow the Money by Al. Bookmark the permalink.

About Al

Editors of The Horse You Rode In On (listed below) hail from Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. All contributions are signed. When guest contributors are included, their comments will be signed in a manner consistent with their needs for discretion, witness protection, or yearning for personal adulation.