The Newhour had a debate tonight full of denialism provided by Paul Miller, former head of the American League of Lobbyists. It’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how the lobbying tactics outlined in the Denialists’ Deck of Cards can be employed to fight a proposal without really dealing with the merits of it.
The issue: lobbying reform in Washington that will ban certain gifts by lobbyists to Members, and will provide greater transparency on money provided by lobbyists. The legislation isn’t perfect, but check out the tactics used by Miller to kill the proposal:
PAUL MILLER, Miller-Wenhold Capitol Strategies: This bill should have never come to the floor. This bill should have never been written, for one thing. Congress overreacted and has had a knee-jerk reaction to one individual (Jack Abramoff), and that happened two years ago. This system is not broken.
Wow, this guy doesn’t mess around! In a single statement, he fit in two versions of “No Problem” and “Bad Apples.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re not only saying it’s not a lobbying issue, you’re saying it’s not an improvement. Is that right?
PAUL MILLER: No, because the information is already out there, so why are you going to make us file another set of forms that really is not going to — the general public is not going to understand anyway?
Here, Miller goes for two more excellent tactics: the industry is already regulated, so more rules can’t be necessary, and even they did comply with new rules, the public doesn’t really want it anyway!
FRED WERTHEIMER (of Common Cause): …what Paul is saying is absolutely wrong. There are multiple ways in which lobbyists provide money to help members of Congress. Only one of them — campaign contributions — is currently disclosed.
There is no disclosure when lobbyists put up the money to pay for conferences and retreats held by members of Congress. There is no disclosure when lobbyists give money to foundations controlled by members of Congress. And there is no disclosure of the bundling of contributions, which allow me to provide $50,000 or $100,000 in a bunch of contributions to help a member as opposed to my direct contribution.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What about those specifics?
PAUL MILLER: I mean, again, it goes back to this bill should have never come to the floor. Congress doesn’t even know if there are problems.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about those specific points that he made, that now there’s disclosure of when money is given for conferences, for retreats, for these large bundling?
PAUL MILLER: There’s loopholes in this bundling package. As it was pointed out in your earlier segment or in the lead up to this, PACs are not — PACs that bundle contributions are not required to…
Back to “No Problem,” “Bad Apples,” and a new argument–the “Regulation Won’t Work” because there are “loopholes!” Brilliant. You see, by broadening the proposal so that it covers everyone under the sun, Miller knows he can kill the legislation. This guy is worth at least $500/hour.
Remember, in the weird world of Washington advocacy, you can play the same cards over and over again. Our attention spans are too short to remember that they’ve already been played.
6 thoughts on “Denialists’ Deck Applied: Lobbying Reform”
Is this the first time we’ve been able to use the cards on a current event? This was a perfect example.
Yay! I hope to see more of these. It took me a bunch of earlier posts to figure out how the denialists’ deck of cards was supposed to work, but a demonstration is always the best way 🙂
Terrific! Could you keep this up, and send it to the News Hour regularly?
I ran across a new resource; can’t vouch for its accuracy yet but the results seem reasonable.
There’s an article on Wired about it.
from Wired article:
With more tools like this available to the average Joe, ELF may be headed to obsolescence (assuming that the non-ELF constituency gives a damn or can afford to push themselves away from American Idol).
@Ted, that site is awesome! It works much better in California, because here, as a business, it is customary to formally oppose or support a bill. So, in the legislative history, there is actually a data field that reads “SUPPORT” and “OPPOSE” that can be used to more or less accurately determine an industry’s position on something. Congress doesn’t have such a system.
Chris, that’s true as far as I can tell. Add to that the tendency for a bill to be named the opposite of what it’s supposed to do, and it becomes pretty hard to track down lobbyists.
But there are pretty good resources at the national level that allow a person to get a good idea where the money comes from and to understand the motivations.
Not that I’m saying there are any nefarious motivations, mind you. I’m sure that large companies contribute huge sums to government officials without regard to outcome.
In fact, if they do have a failing, it’s probably that they luv the republic and participatory democracy too much, and support it very generously, at great personal costs.
BTW, if those links fail:
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