Lobbying groups argue that's just not fair; if we just want to call ourselves citizens for responsible energy policy, we should be able to do so. The legislation would require the disclaimer to read: brought to you by Exxon Mobil and the Nuclear Power Plant Operators Association. This legislation has not even been introduced yet and the lobbying industry is already circling the wagons and the charge is being led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Last year the Chamber spent $47 million on lobbying in the halls of power on single issue campaigns and expects to spend $50 million this year on candidate-focused ads.
The Chamber had worked hard to end what it saw as discrimination against corporate free speech and hailed the Supreme Court's decision as a landmark event of real progress. They aren't about to be turned back nor are they going to sit back and take a wait and see approach.
For instance, Massey Energy, the company that owns the coal mine where twenty-five workers were killed in West Virginia, had been fined $900,000 for past safety violations. The company is appealing more than a quarter of those fines. In 1996 Massey was fined for a fire that killed two workers and a civil suit brought a damage judgement of $50 million. As the case wound through the appeals process Massey Energy donated more than $3 million to Brent Benjamin, a candidate for the West Virginia Court of Appeals. The three million dollars was more than 60 percent of Benjamin's total campaign fund. Once elected Justice Benjamin refused to recuse himself from the case and sided with Massey Energy in overturning the verdict.
In layman's speak Scalia is saying, "So what? People died. So what?" The company bought themselves a judge. The world's not a perfect place. So what?
On top of the $47 million spent last year, the U.S. Chamber spent $144 million lobbying on behalf of Exxon Mobil. Exxon Mobil was the Chamber's largest customer, five times the size of their next largest customer, the health care industry. So when you're watching "Meet the Press" or CNN and they have a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a guest, remember it's not some altruistic business council but a paid lobbyist who doesn't want you to know that he or she is a paid employee of Exxon Mobil.
The U.S. Chamber wonders why they are being singled out for pretending to be something they are not; after all, politicians do it all the time. We've been down this road now several times. Enough, in fact, to know that the American public will be lucky if the proposed legislation won't emerge from Congress with a tax payer subsidy to assist in the lobbying.
In my crystal ball I predict the President will come out strongly and publicly in favor of this bill, but that is all. Much like the Employee Fair Choice Act or public option health insurance, you'll get a lot of bark but no bite.
The Republicans in Congress will growl and sniff at the door and will maintain that they support this type of legislation but can't support this particular bill. The legislation will then go one of two ways; it will die the death of a thousand cuts like the Employee Free Choice Act. Or it will be pushed through the Rube Goldberg sausage machine that is Congress and taxpayers will be lucky if the bill doesn't cost the treasury a billion dollars a year to subsidize the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
This is, after all, the Corporate States of America and there are several hundred representatives and senators who pretend that they are working on our behalf when they are no better than Justice Brent Benjamin! We have blue dog Democrats who are in fact moderate Republicans, and Republicans who call themselves compassionate conservatives who never saw a weapons system that they didn't like or a social program that they did.
The so called high-minded liberals who think the road out of the economic morass is by giving tax cuts to big business. They think employers will hire more if they are given a one year wavier on their six percent Social Security liability. Remember now, if you are one of the few fortunate enough to get one of these jobs you will still be liable for your share of the payroll deduction. If you are self-employed you will still be liable as well.
The bill will be proposed when Congress returns from its Easter recess, and like the play "Spring Time for Hitler" the bill is destined for a quick close, unless the unrestrained laughter sustains it. Health care reform began as a noble effort and ended up by writing checks to insurance companies, and now a congressman and senator think that they can put a choke collar on the biggest dog in town?
"Election after election has proven that the Chamber is the big dog," said Mike Gehrke, a spokesman for the Washington-based union federation Change to Win, which supports disclosing contributors. "People who are worried about corporate influence in elections need to be worried about the Chamber."