Friday, January 06, 2006

How Government Really Works IV

Following up on yesterday's them, Slate has this article--
Lobbying and Laziness - It's not just about greed. It's about loafing. By John Dickerson:
"The more effective scenario, [ than exchanging money for votes] for everyone concerned, involves the lobbyist becoming friendly with members of the Congress member's staff, who research issues and advise him or her what to do and how to vote.

When the member of Congress goes to staff for information, he wants it fast. A staffer can read all available material on the issue, think through the policy, and balance what's right against the member's political interests—or he can call his friend Smitty the lobbyist. Smitty knows all about this complicated stuff in the telecommunications bill. He was talking about it just the other day at the Wizards game, which was almost as fun as the Cointreau-and-capon party Smitty hosted at his spread in Great Falls over Labor Day.

Smitty has a solid, intellectually defensible answer to every question. He also knows how an issue is likely to play out politically for the member back in his home district. In a hectic day, Smitty makes a staffer's day easier. That's almost as appealing as the skybox and the free drinks. It's easy to rationalize relying on lobbyists for this kind of help. In asking lobbyists to help them understand technical issues, staffers are doing the same thing journalists do every day—and in fact, journalists often call the same lobbyists for the same reason. They find someone who understands the issue, figuring that they're smart enough to use the information that rings true and discard the spin."
I.e., like the President with his slide briefings, Congress members and staffs are dependent on others for information. And it's true that most every issue can be given a reasonable justification.

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