15 June 2009

Corrupt Politicians and Their Paymasters

A farmer told me that "there are 61,000 environmental lobbyists in Washington DC." While I know that there are many lobbyists in many places, I had no idea of HOW many.

So I asked someone who knew, and this is what Marianne Lavelle at The Center for Public Integrity told me:
It is very hard to measure the pro and anti [environmental lobbyists], as you likely have found out, because folks are not required to disclose their positions--just the bills and subject matters on which they lobbied. We have been trying to measure and analyze the lobbying on just one environmental issue--climate change. What we found is that the number of lobbyists for all interests weighing in on climate change grew about 300 percent from 2003 to 2008 to about 2,350.

The lobbyists for health and environmental groups and alternative energy business -- all of whom you could presume were pushing for climate action -- were outnumbered by lobbyists for all other interest groups about 8 to 1.

Our original story says the number of environmental and health lobbyists on the bill totaled about 185. (We just published this update based on the first quarter of 2009 numbers.)

Hope this helps you a little bit at least! The 61,000 figure is way out there. No basis in fact that I can even imagine.
For a longer discussion of these issues, read Marianne's piece at Yale 360.

What effect have these lobbyists produced? How about a cap and trade bill that's over 900 pages long, full of exemptions and mandates, and (this is near criminal) giving away 85% of carbon permits to industry. I guess that's what you get when you spend $100 million on lobbying -- benefits worth $60+ billion (in the first year!). You can't beat that cost-benefit, eh? Spend $1 to make $600!

Lynne Kiesling also posts on the command and control in Wacky-Marx-Man. Here's my prediction: >50% of the “cost” of climate change will be due to regulatory burden and distortions from actions to "prevent" climate change.

Bottom Line: Now you see why I advocate a carbon tax. With the current situation, we are likely to get higher prices WITHOUT cleaning up the environment.

3 comments:

Amanda Rice said...

I read this blog on a regular basis and appreciate the information and opinions you share here. My interest is not only water, but also in local government and civic engagement. (People really should pay more attention to what their water district is doing!) Without your site, I'd have never discovered TED.com - a fabulous gift. So let me say thanks with some sites you may not know about yet - related to the topic of this post. Three sites (among many others, I'm sure) track the data and provide the facts to help us understand who is influencing our public officials: followthemoney.org, legistorm.com and opensecrets.org. Followthemoney.org follows money in state government, Legistorm.com offers the salary, travel and other spending data of the US Congress and Opensecrets.org highlights lobbying and election financing. More fun than you can shake a stick at! The bottom line: Databases + sunlight-loving internet programmers = easy access to the facts we need presented in ways we can easily understand.

Spencer said...

If you counted all the citizen groups who stop by to see their legislators while touring the Capitol and mention some environmental issue, maybe you could reach 61,000, but that figure has to be pretty overstated hearsay.

While the free handouts of so many permits does make the legislation even more terrible, as one who lives and works in DC, it's hard for me to imagine that a straight and simple carbon tax without the same types of loopholes from the same lobbyists would ever be passed either. However, in that case you'd at least have the clear stigma of "X industry isn't paying taxes" to provoke public outcry and perhaps rein things in a little, instead of a much more nebulous give-away of market-distorting permits.

David Zetland said...

Thanks folks. See also http://maplight.org/