Leftist columnist Frank Rich offers a devastating critique of the power lobbyists have over ALL our current politicians. The revelation is a disappointment to those who expected a change from the new administration:
Barack Obama promised a change from this revolving-door, behind-closed-doors collaboration between special interests and government. He vowed to “do our business in the light of day” — with health care negotiations broadcast on C-Span — and to “restore the vital trust between people and their government.” He said, “I intend to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.” That those lobbyists would so extravagantly flaunt their undiminished role shows just how little they believe that a new sheriff has arrived in Dodge.
In his scathing Wall Street Journal column on The Post articles last week, Thomas Frank crystallized the gap between Obama’s pledge and this reality. “There is something uniquely depressing about the fact that the National Portrait Gallery’s version of the Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster previously belonged to a pair of lobbyists.” That’s no joke: It was donated by Tony and Heather Podesta.
Obama’s promise to make Americans trust the government again was not just another campaign bullet point; it’s the foundation of his brand of governance and essential to his success in office. At the first anniversary of the TARP bailout of the banks, we can see how far he has to go. Americans’ continued suspicion that Washington is in cahoots with powerful interests in joints like Tosca is contributing to their confusion and skepticism about what’s happening out of view in the battle over health care reform.
The public is not wrong. The administration’s legislative deals with the pharmaceutical companies were made in back rooms. Business Week reported in early August that the UnitedHealth Group and its fellow insurance giants had already quietly rounded up moderate Democrats in the House to block any public health care option that would compete with them for business. UnitedHealth’s hired Beltway gunslingers include both Elmendorf Strategies and Daschle, a public supporter of the public option who nonetheless does some of his “wink, wink” counseling for UnitedHealth. The company’s in-house lobbyist is a former chief of staff to Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader. Gephardt consults there too.
Don’t believe the fiction that only the other party is beholden to big corporations and big donations.