I’ve long been familiar with the phenomenon of industry lobbyists writing legislation.
We’ve got proprietary content industries like those represented by the RIAA and MPAA writing international copyright treaties like ACTA to be rubber-stamped by national parliaments.
We’ve got the oil industry rolling in refundable tax credits — which really have nothing to do with “taxes” at all besides the fact that it just happens to be the IRS that cuts the welfare check. If you wonder why, just look at the oil industry lobbyists Dick Cheney went hunting with. (Wouldn’t it be nice if he shot one of those guys?)
We’ve got Scott Walker on the phone with billionaire David Koch presumed to be on the other end, like that little doggie listening to his master’s voice on the Victrola.
Like I said, I’ve always known it’s SOP for industry lobbyists to write the laws, and for elected officials to ask “How high?” when the plutocrats tell them to jump. So none of this surprised me.
I confess to a bit of surprise, though, when I saw a story about an actual institionalized mechanism for industry lobbyists to write model regulatory legislation. According to Laura Sullivan on NPR’s Morning Edition (“Shaping Laws With Little Scrutiny,” Oct. 29, 2010), an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), headquartered in Washington, made up of an assortment of state legislators and corporate lawyers, writes “model bills” for legislators to take back and introduced in their home bodies. Most of the bills, according to senior policy director Michael Bowman, “are written by outside sources and companies, attorneys, [and legislative] counsels.” Exxon-Mobil and Pfizer are members.
For example, Arizona’s “Papers, Please” immigration law was drafted with help from the Corrections Corporation of America.
Some 200 bills drafted by ALEC become law every year. Bowman considers ALEC to be an “educational” institution, performing a public service by informing legislators about good legislation. That’s right. They’re educated on good legislation by representatives of the regulated industries, far away from the prying eyes of their constituents.
“ALEC allows a place for everyone at the table to come and debate and discuss. You have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters. They’re just trying to learn a policy and understand it.”
As Lily Tomlin once put it, I try to be cynical — but I can’t keep up.
Trying to put an end to such “continuing education” projects by regulating the money — by such expedients as McCain-Feingold or public financing — is futile. The people with the money are much better at finding ways around such restrictions than “progressives” are at creating them. Money, with apologies to Jeff Goldblum in “Jurassic Park,” will find a way. Money flows toward power like water flows downhill.
The only solution is to get rid of the power. Political power is, in fact, the source of the wealth concentrations that fund the industry lobbyists and the campaign contributions. The wealth of big business and the plutocracy is funneled to them by subsidies, protections, oligopoly markups on state-cartelized markets, scarcity rents from artificial property rights, etc., none of which would exist without the state.
Getting rid of the power seemingly involves a Catch-22: How can you dismantle the state policies underlying the political means to wealth, when you’re outspent and outgunned in the policy-making process by those who profit from it? How do you change the system to prevent their making money off it, in a system rigged in favor of the big money?
The answer: Get rid of the money. At first glance this seems to be a circular argument, since — to repeat — we can’t challenge their control of the political means to wealth.
No, we get rid of the money in politics by undermining — at the economic level — the means by which the plutocracy makes its money. For example, we destroy the proprietary content industries’ ability to make money — not by contesting their power in the political arenas where legislation like the DMCA is passed — but by combating their ability to enforce the copyright laws they make money from. We’ll probably never secure the repeal of DMCA in Congress. But we can destroy the record and movie industries’ profit economically, with weapons like torrent download, strong encryption, and proxies — and laugh ourselves silly at the blustering of clowns like Lieberman and Biden.
Now repeat the same principle, corporate dinosaur by corporate dinosaur, destroying their monopoly profits by the same means that the file-sharing movement is destroying the profits of the record and movie industries.
We solve the problem of money in politics, not by contesting money’s control of the political process — but by economically destroying the political profiteers’ power to make money, and rendering their political power useless.