Corporatocracy Part II: Lobbying and the Revolving Door

I apologize for the fact that this post is a day late. I’ve been traveling and yesterday just didn’t have a chance to update.

The first post on Corporatocracy discussed how corporate entities manage to avoid paying for the public services that support their success. Today’s post is about how corporate wealth translates into political influence.

Lobbying

As readers of the first post know, corporations manage to pay much less in tax than the 39% tax rate on the books. In fact, in the past few years, a number of the most profitable companies in the world have been able to pay no corporate income tax at all.

Beyond that, at least thirty of the most profitable companies operating in our country have paid more in lobbying fees than taxes.

That has several results. One is that lobbyists from major companies are essentially speaking to politicians on behalf of major potential campaign donors. That often results in them getting access that lesser mortals can only dream of.

The other is something I only realized after working as a public interest lobbyist for a nonprofit. My boss and I were the only ones working for the organization in our state. As a result, our time interacting with lawmakers was limited, and we had to try to cover a range of issues in our discussions with them, in addition to our other work outside the legislature.

Major corporations with profits in the billions of dollars can afford to have lobbyists posted at a lawmaker’s office every day of the week, waiting to jump on every opportunity to discussion upcoming bills and pressure the legislator to vote in the interest of the company. Nonprofits, NGOs, small businesses, and ordinary citizens, with their limited resources, can’t hope to compete with such a continual presence. And this influence makes itself felt in everything from health care policy to immigration.

The Revolving Door

The concept of the revolving door is that members of Congress, or congressional staffers, often leave Capitol Hill to work for the big corporations that do the most lobbying. They have insider knowledge that can guide these corporations seeking greater influence with current lawmakers. The work is more lucrative than working on the Hill, and the corporations are better able to convince legislators to pass bills granting their industry subsidies, exemptions from environmental laws, and yes, to keep major tax loopholes that let corporations avoid paying taxes on profits made here in the U.S.

And then there is the “reverse” revolving door. In this case, corporate lobbyists or other high-level employees are granted major bonuses upon leaving their corporation for a government post. And that bonus is contingent upon the employee getting a position of influence within a congressional office, or in the case discussed in the link above, in the Obama administration.

So now our current Secretary of the Treasury has entered the cabinet through the reverse revolving door.

And this kind of revolving door, spinning both directions, leads to policy that does not serve the interests of the government or the American people. For instance, lobbying from defense contractors, and no doubt influence in the legislative process from their former employees now working in government, has led to continued funding for defense projects the military doesn’t even want.

Here are a few more fun revolving door stories for your edification. One of the interesting factoids there is that the heads of the Armed Services Committees in both the House and Senate now have former Northrop Grumman executives and lobbyists as aides. So no matter what else happens with the U.S. economy, expect Northrop Grumman to continue to profit.

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