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October 19, 2007 04:29 PM UTC

COLUMN: The Invisible Culture of Corruption

  • 2 Comments
  • by: davidsirota

For all the headlines about corruption that we saw in the lead-up to the 2006 election, we have to remember that the most pernicious form of corruption is the that is difficult to see – the kind that reporters and politicians alike pretend doesn’t exist, but which lobbying disclosure records expose. This is the subject of my nationally syndicated newspaper column this week, out today (and in the Denver Post).

As Congress considers passing a new package of NAFTA-like trade deals, K Street is now employing the smoothest strategies of deceit to get Democrats to capitulate. Though Democrats ran in 2006 on an explicit promise to radically reform America’s trade policy, and though these deals are opposed by almost every major labor, human rights, anti-poverty, consumer protection and environmental groups, Washington lobbyists may very well get their way – with the help of a media that refuses to point out blatant conflicts of interest.

Specifically, a letter signed by 43 Democratic officeholders in support of the new NAFTAs has been blanketing Washington at the very same time new polls show broad public opposition to NAFTA-style trade policy. The media has dutifully reported on the letter, conservative think tanks have been trumpeting it, and President Bush even lauded it in a big speech last week. And yet, somehow, not a single reporter bothered to mention that most of the people who signed this letter were acting not out of objective, altruistic statesmanship. No, most of the signatories on the letter are paid corporate lobbyists, corporate lawyers or corporate consultants who represent industries with a direct financial stake in seeing these trade deals pass.

I provide some of the sordid details in my column – details of which lobbyists on the letter represent which companies. You should feel free to look even further. For instance, you can cross-reference the letter with House and Senate lobbying records. You can also look at the Center for Responsive Politics’ Revolving Door Database.

One of the great things about the netroots and the blogosphere is the commitment to transparency and Open Government. That’s what my column is all about – the need for such transparency, and the proof that the powers that be in Washington actually collude to hide the truth in a way that makes the most pernicious lobbying efforts seem totally above board. One of the things the netroots can be most effective in doing is exposing this kind of rampant corruption – because you better believe it is everywhere on every single policy moving through Congress.

Go read the whole column here and let me know what you think. And if you’d like to see my column regularly in papers throughout Colorado (it already runs every week in the Post), use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site.

Cross-posted from Working Assets

Comments

2 thoughts on “COLUMN: The Invisible Culture of Corruption

  1. David,

    I probably turn you off as much as you do me.

    But you asked for comment, and, of course, I have some reactions.

    1. Calling lobbyists and their clients corrupt is unethical, unfair and inaccurate. As Sen. Clinton recently said, lobbyists represent millions of workers and investors as well as consumers. Also, you don’t report on the lobbyists representing NAFTA’s opponents.

    2. Who’s more corrupt, lobbyists putting in an honest day’s work or columnists appealing to the greed of unionists, over-paid workers and hard left netroots in the hopes of building a following, becoming famous and rich?

    3. NAFTA and free trade build economic wealth for the poor in  emerging markets in Latin America and elsewhere as well as for the poor American consumers who deserve every price break they can get.

    4. Your basic assumption is that financial incentives breed greed and corruption. Very Marxist of you. (I can flame, too. How do you like it?) I suggest you look up the word satisfice and the economics of satisficing. Basically, it shows why people don’t maximize profits.

    5. David, you’re a very good researcher and writer. You’re a lousy columnist and propagandist because you’re so obvious. You’re not a George Will. You’re a Molly Ivins (sp).

    Now that’s a real flame. 

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