Lobbyists control our legislators

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As we begin ramping up for another election cycle, I hope our local and regional news editors will ensure that our community is informed on the changing characteristics of national and regional government.

Since most of us made our youthful visit to the voting booth, there has been a tremendous change in the dynamics of elected public service.

A few decades ago, candidates who stood for public office were expecting to make a sacrifice with their service. I recall the first congressman I ever met, Gerald Ford, lived very modestly. He often slept on a foldout bed and worked from dawn to midnight.

Today, our candidates expect to become very wealthy. The halls of Congress are awash in money, flooded with millions of dollars, which originate in large corporations and wealthy individuals.

Corporate lobbyists corrupting government with campaign contributions and favors have undermined the political process. A lobbyist might offer $5 million to a senator or congressman.

There are 159 former congressmen who lobbied for private and special interest groups in 2009.

Because so much corporate money has flooded Congress, it now costs on average $1.3 million to elect a congressman.

Lobbyists have more power than voters because:

u Finance, insurance and real estate interests have contributed $227 million.

u Health-care interests have contributed $224 million.

u Communications and other electronic companies have contributed $200 million.

u Energy and natural resource interests have contributed $160 million.

u Transportation companies contributed $138 million.

The list goes on for a total of $1,550,222,230; that’s a billion and a half dollars.

There are 435 congressmen and 100 senators working in Washington, D.C. They are surrounded by 12,500 lobbyists. Who is likely to win – voters or special interest groups?

Senators and congressmen are paid $174,000 per year, plus some expenses.

The president is paid $400,000 a year, plus expenses.

The point is, the fine Republicans and Democrats we elect to office are being swamped with a cascade of financial enticements by special interest groups. These men and women have families and they have needs. Washington, D.C., is an expensive place to live or even visit. Special interest groups are drowning our congressmen and senators.

The forces which brought about this change surround American democracy.

John Aves is an Indian Land resident