Lobbyists should get points for creativity, after all if there is a way to sidestep a law, they will most certainly find it. While there is a ban on gifts to lawmakers and limits on campaign contributions, lobbyists and groups that employ them can spend as much money as they would like to honor members of Congress or donate to charities connected to the lawmaker or their relatives.
Until a law was passed in 2007, lobbyist didn’t even have to reveal those “charitable” funds USA TODAY took a look at those lobbying reports and found 2,759 payments, totaling $35.8 million, were made in 2008. The money went to honor 534 current and former lawmakers, almost 250 other federal officials and more than 100 groups, many of which count lawmakers among their members.
Most of the money — about $28 million — went to non-profit groups, some with direct ties to members of Congress. In two cases, USA TODAY found, the donations to non-profits associated with a member of Congress came in response to a personal appeal for funds from the lawmaker.
“It’s another example of the many pockets of a politician’s coat,” says Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group. The spending amounts to an “end-run” around campaign-finance laws “that are designed to limit the appearance of undue influence,” she says.
The money came from companies, trade associations and labor groups that lobby Congress and the government on a range of issues, from seeking a share of last year’s $700 billion financial bailout package to trying to shape the debate on climate change.
And that is on top of the traditional ways of giving lawmakers money.
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“You can still have a gala or something or the other for a charity and earn some favor with members of Congress, which is what the gift ban was put in place to avoid,” says Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business and a veteran Washington lobbyist.
The spending demonstrates the subtle ways that special-interest groups try to sway lawmakers, without making “something as crass as a payoff,” says Kenneth Gross, a former Federal Election Commission official.
It all seems pretty crass to me. Here is one troubling example:
..such as the $40,000 AT&T gave in December to the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, which researches Alzheimer’s. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., founded the non-profit, which is named for his late mother, and he is the honorary chairman of its board.
These are “not run-of-the-mill charities,” says Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group. “These gifts are another way to gain influence with lawmakers.”
Last year, the telecommunication industry gave more than $72,000 to non-profits and charities in honor of Rockefeller, who advocated legislation to provide legal immunity to phone companies that participated in the government’s anti-terrorism eavesdropping program. The largest donation came from AT&T. At the time, Rockefeller chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee and helped broker a deal on the bill, which passed last year.
It is probably not a coincidence that Senator Rockefeller oversees the telecom industry as chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Below are some of the lawmakers who’s charities have been most successful at getting lobbying dollars
- Sen. Edward Kennedy D-Mass. Organization: Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate Connection: Named for Kennedy; wife on board. Received: $5,050,000 Financial documents: IRS Form 990
- Rep. James ClyburnD-S.C. Organization: James E. Clyburn Research and Scholarship Foundation Connection: Foundation named for congressman. Received: $326,224 Financial documents: IRS Form 990
- Rep. John Lewis D-Ga. Organization: The Faith and Politics Institute Connection: The congressman is co-chair emeritus of the institute. Received: $206,000 Financial documents: IRS Form 990
- Sen. Richard Lugar R-Ind. Organization: Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy Connection: Center named for the senator. Received: $140,000 Financial documents: Unavailable
- Sen. Jay Rockefeller D-W.Va. Organization: Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute Connection: Alzheimer’s research institute named for senator’s late mother. Received: $65,00 Financial documents: IRS Form 990
Washington DC is the place where anyone can find a loophole to gain influence from anyone. Government for the lobbyists and by the lobbyists.
There is more to this article, I reccommend you click below and read the rest of the story:Lobbyists unlimited in honoring lawmakers