The Center for Public Integrity reported recently that the health care debate kept more than 4,500 lobbyists employed at various points throughout the year, effectively drowning out the voices of the American public. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said these lobbyists descend “into the offices of members of Congress and say, ‘Don’t vote for change. Keep the status quo alive.’”
This afternoon, while speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) defended the role of Washington lobbyists, saying that they “do a very effective and useful job on this Hill” and went as far as to say that “somebody needs to stand up” for them:
KING: The people of my district deserve every bit of as much representation in this Congress as the people do in any district. But this structure, this iron-fisted structure in this House of Representatives, that’s what breaks down deliberative democracy and it undermines our constitutional republic and it denies the very legitimate knowledegable input from all across this country. Think about how this works. Each of the 435 of us we go home to our districts. We build a network of advisors providing information for us … in a whole series of ways. Town hall meetings, individual meetings, individual lobbyists, yes lobbyists do a very effective and useful job on this Hill. … Somebody needs to stand up for the lobby, it is a matter of providing a lot of valuable information.
This isn’t the first time King has lauded lobbyists. Last year, he praised astroturf lobbying group Americans for Prosperity for busing in protesters to Washington, DC, even comparing them to Paul Revere. And unfortunately, he isn’t the only member of Congress who has taken it upon himself to defend lobbyists. During the Senate Finance Committee’s mark-up session of its version of the health care bill, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) demanded that the committee delay its votes to give health care lobbyists “at least 72 hours” to read the bill.
Of course, lobbyists hardly need members of Congress standing up for them. Last year was a record year for lobbying expenditures, with $3.47 billion being spent to pay lobbyists to influence-peddle at every level of the federal government.