Pressure Points

The hand that President Obama had raised to take the historic oath of office came down hard on lobbyists yesterday during his first full hours in the Oval Office. Facing a limping economy, the newly installed commander in chief froze senior staffers’ pay and executed stricter restraints on relationships between federal lobbyists and his administration in an ode to public service’s original objectives. Those are admirable moves and send the right message that he’s ready to lead by example.

Intending to stop lobbyists from utilizing public service to climb the corporate ladder, President Obama restricted his new White House staffers from working with issues they had previously lobbied for, as well as curbing individuals from interacting with the Obama administration if they leave the White House and return to the advocacy world. But let’s take this to its next logical level.

While placing fetters on lobbyists looks good in the papers, the growing industry cannot simply be expunged with a signature. As the government inflates — an action seemingly propelled by the new administration’s agenda — lobbyists’ role in public policy promises only to continue to increase, not diminish in size or power.

Take the economic stimulus, for instance. The billions of dollars available offer plenty of opportunities to fill the hands of those in need. As a result, companies and groups hire their own advocates to extend a hand for their cause, offering valid arguments about their clients’ need for a serving of the economic recovery porridge.

The yawning growth of the state helped turn lobbying into the $2.4 billion industry we know today. If President Obama truly would like to rein in special-interest influence, his administration might want to focus on the root causes of their viral ways by putting pressure on the reduction of the government leviathan.



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