Takeaways: June 2021

17 Jun, 2021



June 2021

WHAT GIVES? Companies that have refused to make campaign contributions to members of Congress who challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election got a “PR boost for their good-governance statements,” Axios reports. Even so, lobbyists employed by those companies contributed almost $300,000 to the same 147 members. It’s worth noting, however, that there’s no evidence the companies in question even knew about the contributions. “Many employ dozens of lobbyists who give to members of Congress of both parties,” Axios admits.

MORE RULES: The 38-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has issued a report calling for further regulation of lobbying “to reflect new realities” that include rapid technological change and global competition for influence and access. The report calls for rules requiring more transparency in the use of social media in lobbying. “More also needs to be done to include citizens and businesses in decision making,” according to Modern Diplomacy. Only three member countries — Australia, Canada and the U.S. — regulate lobbying in their domestic affairs by foreign governments.

ET, PHONE HOME: Washington’s UFO lobbyist “is having a moment,” Politico reports. Steve Bassett has been working the corridors of power for 25 years, trying to persuade Congress to hold hearings on the reality of flying saucers and like phenomena. With the release of a government report on the subject, Washington’s only registered lobbyist on the issue is finally getting the media coverage he covets. He has been savvy in his strategy. “I’m not going to spend time talking to some intern in some office on the Hill,” Bassett says he decided some years back. “I’m going to lobby the media.”

HONESTLY? Two veterans of Washington think tanks say that their extended families don’t understand or respect what they do, which makes for difficult holiday dinners. To remedy this searing injustice — and to address the more general “image problem” that think tanks face — the policy experts say governments should “apply stricter rules” to protect the public from members of their own profession. Think tanks, they go on, are too easily controlled by their funders and — pass the smelling salts! — try to persuade lawmakers of the wisdom of the research they do. Writing in Foreign Policy, the authors also want their profession (they call it an “industry”) to adopt a kind of Good Housekeeping seal of approval that can tell people which think tanks are “honest” and which are “dishonest.”

WORTH READING: Investigative journalist Jonathan Marshall’s Dark Quadrant: Organized Crime, Big Business, and the Corruption of American Democracy might be the first serious examination of the influence of moneyed interests on our elections and on public policy. It’s not light summer reading, but the research is solid and the conclusions are troubling, and the author eschews the sensationalism that characterizes so many books on the subject. “Trump’s promises to drain the swamp were as fraudulent as most of his other claims,” Marshall said in an email interview. But it didn’t start with Donald Trump: Marshall’s unsparing history begins with Harry Truman and works its sobering way to our own time.

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