Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Senators And Representatives Get Paid To Talk, But Do We Always Know Who Is Paying Them?

These legislators make lots of speeches and ask questions at congressional hearings. That is part of their job and maybe they like doing that sort of thing (which might explain why they ran for office in the first place). So you might assume that the taxpayers are paying them to talk. But maybe not. The New York Times had an article recently called In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’. Here is the intro:

"In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident. Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies. E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans."

It later says

"In recent years, Genentech’s political action committee and lobbyists for Roche and Genentech have made campaign contributions to many House members, including some who filed statements in the Congressional Record. And company employees have been among the hosts at fund-raisers for some of those lawmakers."

So it looks like this company is actually paying the representatives to say what they want them to say. This reminds me of an Associated Press (AP) article from way back in 1993 (before the internet was widespread). It described how political action committees (PACs) were requiring senators and representatives to sign pledges of what their positions were on various issues before they got their campaign contributions. Of course, the PACs would not be giving money to politicians on the "wrong" side of the issue. It sounded like vote buying back then and it still does. The article was "Interest Groups Use Pointed Questionnaires As Lobbying Tactic" by Jim Drinkard and was issued by the AP on March 26, 1993. I don't think it is online anywhere.