From the weblog The Antiplanner:
The Washington Post has run a fascinating series of twenty-seven articles called Citizen K Street. It is best viewed as a history of Congressional lobbying for the past thirty years as viewed through the lense of one lobbyist’s career.
Another way of looking at the series is a glorification of one particular lobbyist, and several of the commenters obviously viewed it that way. They called the lobbyist a “corporate fascist” (even though his main clients were universities) and proposed various laws that would somehow end all lobbying and venality in DC.
The interesting thing to me is that the hero (or antihero) of the tale apparently invented lobbyist-initiated earmarking. Yes, Congress has earmarked funds for decades, but the earmarks were always initiated by members of Congress or by federal agencies. In this case, the lobbyist and his firm conceived the idea of finding universities and other institutions that were doing ordinary fundraising and saying, “Give us $10,000 a month, and we will convince Congress to give you $25 million.”
So who do we blame for this? The lobbyist? If so, the problem might be solved by banning lobbying or mandating more “transparency” in lobbying (which the antihero of the story supports).
Or should we blame Congress? If so, the problem might be solved with campaign finance reform.
The problem is that none of these are to blame, at least not by themselves. Instead, the real problem is the idea of big government — the idea that government can allocate resources efficiently. Once you accept this idea, you create and support the institutions that naturally lead to lobbying firms and the groups that hire them.
Comment: Many think that "big government" started during the Roosevelt Administration and World War II, however careful examination clearly points to the year 1913, when the 16th and 17th Amendments were enacted. The first allowed for Congress to take our money without redress and the second created an oligarchical group that would take this new found "wealth" and spend it on the growth of government. If the size of government is going to be truly reduced, then both of these amendments must be repealed.