Price of Politics
by Mad Dog
means Senators and Representatives never have to have dinner with the same lobbyist more
than once every 27 days, making it about as anticipated, enjoyable, and frequent as a
|| Politics has
always been a money game, the difference is now its more out in the open. It used to
be that the back rooms filled up with cigar smoke while the politicians pockets
filled up with cash. Nowadays, thanks to federal campaign financing laws and smoking
restrictions, its all done out on the street just like those other bad
habitsspitting and prostitution.
This isnt how its supposed be. The American political system is based on the
idea that our elected officials ("the weasels") represent us ("the
peons"). The thinking goes: We elect them and pay their salaries, therefore
theyre supposed to pass the laws we want them to pass. But, like the hard to find
Yasir Arafat Beanie Babies, politicians go to the highest bidder. The difference is they
dont get sold on the Internet.
Last year special interest groups spent
$1.17 billion lobbying Congress, the White House, and federal agencies like the Department
of Pouring Money Down the Drain. This is enough to give a box of Slim Jims to every man,
woman, and child in the United States and still have enough left over to buy a governor or
two. Well, as long as theyre from small states.
How these groups do this is by sending lots
of lobbyists to Washington. So many, in fact, that they outnumber members of Congress
27-to-1. This means Senators and Representatives never have to have dinner with the same
lobbyist more than once every 27 days, making it about as anticipated, enjoyable, and
frequent as a womans period.
I could donate my federally mandated limit of $2,000 and if Im lucky Id get a
letter signed by a laser printer which misspells my name and thanks me for allowing them
to put me on every campaign fundraising mailing list for the next 125 years.
|| The American
Medical Association spent the most money lobbying last year, doling out $17.1 million. I,
on the other hand, spent the least, not even checking off that box on my tax form that
asks if I want to contribute to the delinquency of a candidate in the next election. Hell,
the only box I ever check on my tax form is the one that says "Deceased, please send
all future forms to my ash-filled urn."
(NOTE: I kid the IRS, which is a new thing. A year ago I couldnt have even joked
about this without having IRS agents break down my door and confiscate my belongings, the
cash I hide in the Tide box under the kitchen sink, and my mother, but luckily their new
Citizens Bill of Rights says were allowed to make one joke at the
agencys expense each calendar year as long as were the unmarried head of a
household with no hermaphrodite children under the age of 14 and a total gross income less
than line 42 plus line 17 divided by the square root of an elm tree.)
The big question is: Do elm trees have
square roots? No, thats not it. What I really meant to ask is: What do you get for
your hard earned lobbying dollar? If youre Philip Morris you get your products
banned from most public places. If youre Microsoft, you get sued by the Department
of Justice. Most people would consider this a bad investment, but just imagine what would
happen if they didnt cough up all these bucks.
There are more direct ways to get money to
a politician, like donating it to their election campaign. I could donate my federally
mandated limit of $2,000 and if Im lucky Id get a letter signed by a laser
printer which misspells my name and thanks me for allowing them to put me on every
campaign fundraising mailing list for the next 125 years.
But it could be worseI could be like
the Chinese. They gave Clinton $639,000 and all they got is a couple of satellites (which
they had to buy anyway), two weeks worth of photo ops (which they could have gotten by
digitally replacing Nixon with Clinton), and a chance to wonder if that red-head who
accompanied him and Hillary was Monica Lewinsky.
As human beings we believe that everyone deserves another opportunity. This works in a
politicians favor, which is why Marion Barry, Jesse Helms, and Trent Lott have had
more chances than James Hormels had lovers.
|| Its only
fair that we should be able to buy our politicians. After all, they try to buy us. They do
this in a number of waysby getting Congress to give money to local projects, by
lowering our taxes whether its a smart thing to do or not, and by guaranteeing that
well have plenty to laugh at in Jay Lenos monologues.
They also try to buy our votes with advertising. In
1996 Clinton spent $1.36 per vote to get elected. Bob Dole spent $1.63. Ross Perot, on the
other hand, dropped a grand total of $17.95 at Staples for magic markers and flip charts
and got nearly 8 million people to vote for him. Of course, they all thought he was Ross
But no matter how you look at it,
politicians are still supposed to be representing us, the little people. Here in this
country if they vote against our wishes we wait a couple of years, then give them another
chance. Thats because as human beings we believe that everyone deserves another
opportunity. This works in a politicians favor, which is why Marion Barry, Jesse
Helms, and Trent Lott have had more chances than James Hormels had lovers.
In Colombia they have a better grasp of how
this should work. In Paniquita, the Indian council recently decided to punish a
senator-elect because he supported a presidential candidate they didnt like.
Although they threatened to force him to renounce his seat and be strung up in a tree and
whipped, they relented. Now all hell have to do is walk six hours on a dirt road,
spend a near-freezing night in a pasture, be stripped naked in the morning, and be thrown
into a lake. Now thats culpability.
"This will help restore my good energy
and free me of evil spirits," the politician reportedly said.
Funny, thats the same thing most
Congressmen say after their monthly free lunch with their favorite lobbyist. Well, that
and "Whats the number of that bill you want passed?"
©1998 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them while having lunch with your Congressman.