This is how we do it
by Jon Worley
Every election, plenty of voters decide that it's time to "throw the bums out" and elect some "new blood." I'm all for change, and I agree that there are plenty of members of Congress who have no business staggering through the cloakrooms of the Capitol.
But throwing all the bums out won't change a thing. And electing members of Congress who believe that government is evil does even less than that. If you actually want change, you have to elect a boatload of responsible people who understand how the system works.
My office is on K Street, the legendary Lobbyists Avenue. But I'm not a lobbyist, and I don't work for a lobbying firm. In fact, most of the people who work on K Street (and L Street, and Eye Street, and…) aren't lobbyists. There are a number of trade and professional associations (labor unions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and so on) that hang their shingle near K, but all of them are outnumbered by the non-governmental organizations.
NGOs come in many colors. Most of them are what folks like to call "special interest groups." But one person's special interest group is another's wall against tyranny. The ACLU and NRA are both NGOs. Think tanks like the Rand Corporation and Cato Institute are often lumped in with the NGOs, though some feel there is a difference between the two types of organizations.
I don't. An NGO is an organization that mobilizes people in order to influence government, and think tanks like Brookings are as much in the influence business as whoever has lined up George Clooney for Congressional testimony this week. And while many of these NGOs don't seem to have much power, you'd be surprised how many Congressional staffers pay attention to them. Since the politicians themselves are largely vacated people who rely completely on their staffs in order to function, having an in with a member of Congress is golden.
Why was the health care bill more than 2,000 pages long? Amendments proposed by NGOs. Why do we have a Clean Water Act and a Clean Air Act? NGOs like the Sierra Club.
And there are plenty of conservative-leaning NGOs, too. I mentioned the NRA and Cato, but there are scads more. Want to know where "Read my lips, no new taxes" came from? Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform organization.
Relationships drive results in Washington, which is why presidents generally don't fare well unless they have exceptionally-connected Chiefs of Staff. All presidential candidates (including incumbents) run as outsiders, but those who actually govern as outsiders quickly discover the error of their ways. Lyndon Johnson may have been an accidental president, but he was ready to serve from minute one. He knew how to get things done in D.C., and he did just that. His list of accomplishments in five years is almost breathtaking.
Luckily, this year neither major presidential candidate is under any illusions about striding into Washington as an outsider. Yes, Mitt Romney talks like an outsider, but he does so out of the side of his mouth with his fingers crossed. The man is a born insider. And if he's elected, that fact will serve him and the country well.
So when you vote this fall, remember those of us on K Street. And remember that no matter who you send to Washington, we'll straighten them out or they'll soon earn a one-way ticket back home.
That's just how we roll.
e-mail Jon Worley
return to the Shut up, I'm talking page
return to the LIES home page
return to the A&A home page