Robert G. Kaiser discussed his book So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government (Knopf).
Lobbyists have a bad name in Washington. These peddlers of influence are the catalysts behind the worst pork, earmarks, and procurement spending in government. So why and how are they getting away with it? Those are the central questions in Robert G. Kaiser’s new book, So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government, which follows two narratives: One is the rise of power lobbyist Gerald Cassidy, who turned lobbying into a $100 million business; but the other story at work in So Damn Much Money is the role of money in our politics.
“The conversion of public service to private interest” is one of the most corrosive elements in modern government, according to Kaiser, an associate editor and senior correspondent at The Washington Post. With congressmen turning their government expertise and inside-the-beltway bone fides into lucrative lobbying gigs when they leave government, there’s a revolving-door effect that leaves little room for reform. After all, when the congressmen have no more incentive to restrict lobbying than do the lobbyists themselves, it’s difficult to imagine any chance for meaningful reform.
Meanwhile, Kaiser declared the quality of our congressmen has declined substantially. Congressmen know going into office that they will spend “one to two days every week, week in and week out, election year or not, on the phone begging for money,” said Kaiser. It’s a precondition of the job that many find “demeaning,” and it’s no way to attract the most talented leaders to office. And, of course, the next thing that happens is that lobbyists start making substantial donations to elected officials’ campaign funds. It’s an interdependent money game that practically ensures corruption.