“Republicans have for too long been captive to industry lobbyists seeking special favors.” Those are Tim Carney’s words writing in the Washington Examiner. The motivating reason for Carney’s declaration is electoral of course, as well as political. Main street does not like corporate welfare, and lobbying is seen as an inside track to gain advantages for any given corporation or industry. K street does not play well on Main street. With midterm elections a few weeks away, the GOP – specifically what the GOP’s agenda will be when and if they gain control of the Senate – matters to the electorate and quickly cozying up to business lobbies is a worry for some party supporters. There are three easy, make that visible, targets for anti-lobbying crusaders to take on: The Export-Import Bank, Ethanol subsidies, and Sugar subsidies. Bobby Jindal has planted a stake coming out for the elimination of ethanol subsidies and righting the market distortions that they create. The Export-Import Bank is perhaps a less rational target, seeing they aid US corporations that sell abroad. A trade surplus is hardly something to run screaming from as a true populist, and helping US corporations compete against European and Asian competitors who receive all sorts of subsidies makes economic sense. One can argue that it is a violation of free market principles, but who goes first? Think of Boeing and the jobs – those in the US – it creates by selling its aircrafts around the world. Does Boeing lobby Washington? What do you think? Finally, Sugar subsidies mean higher prices for US consumers. Of course, cutting sugar subsidies will hardly play well in Florida and may come back to hurt GOP chances in the state in 2016.

There is the matter of free speech as well. SCOTUS has ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations. So as a matter of law, whether settled law might be too early to say, K street is within its rights to spend a lot of money to gain Washington’s ear. Direct contributions are still banned, so for business – big, medium, or small – K street is their most effective route, literally and metaphorically, to argue their case. That’s a rollback of some of McCain-Feingold and it might not sit well in Main Street. That is, until voters in any district realize that that an evil corporation has lobbied for a subsidy or rule change that means more jobs in their district. It’s the age old story of Federal politics in the US: get the government out of the economy except when it creates jobs in my district. Big business is bad, especially if it doesn’t lobby for favors that could mean a new plant opening up down the road. Every senator, whether GOP or Dem, knows this in his or her bones, and so it will be interesting to see how vigorously the Senate pushes an anti-K street agenda after November.

Comments