Don’t paint all lobbyists with the same brush, Jack

Our message to Mr. Abramoff is, don’t paint us all with your brush. We do not all engage in this type of activity — 99.9 percent of us represent our clients ethically and accountably and don’t go to jail for it! You’re not a hero, Jack, you’re a felon.

We’re not here to highlight Jack Abramoff — we’re here to defend our profession against a rogue “lobbyist” who broke the rules to make a fast buck, all at the cost of his clients. Let’s not rush once again to create a lobbying firestorm because a convicted felon says he’s the guy who can fix the system. Members of Congress and the American people were taken advantage of once by this guy, let’s not let it happen again. 

The fact is, the system worked. Jack Abramoff broke the law and he went to prison for violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act. If further reforms are necessary, Congress and the administration need to sit down with those of us who have spent years advocating for change and attempting to close the loopholes that he exploited. We urge Congress to sit down and work with those of us who can make the system better and stronger. We cannot believe and find it incredulous that any member of Congress would ever consider turning to a convicted felon who is looking for attention and an avenue to sell books for advice in how to make the system better.

If we can send Mr. Abramoff a message, it would be that standing up and admitting one did wrong doesn’t clear the slate. If you are sincere about what you did and not simply looking to get rich by selling books, then take the money you earn from your book and donate it to charity. Here’s a suggestion — donate the money to the American League of Lobbyists, so it can continue to build its certification program. Let your positive mark be your wanting to help a profession you betrayed.

Fairfax, Va.

Cuts to defense spending must be done gradually

From Charles Knight, co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives at the Commonwealth Institute 

In The Hill’s Nov. 14 article “Panetta warns lawmakers of huge military cutbacks if supercommittee fails” a recent Project on Defense Alternatives report is quoted accurately as saying that cuts in the Pentagon budget of more than $100 billion a year are reasonable and can be achieved with modest adjustments to U.S. global military strategy. However, it is crucial to point out that Secretary Panetta is addressing the effects of a sudden drop in a planned Pentagon budgets of $100 billion in 2013. 

The Project on Defense Alternatives does not advocate such a plan. A drawdown of the defense budget, which is responsible both to the high standards of our armed services and to the needs of the economy still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, will be gradual: $10 billion to $20 billion a year over a five- to eight-year period until the Pentagon reaches a new plateau at roughly 15 percent below current levels in real terms. This is a give-back in these demanding fiscal times of only half the real growth in the Pentagon budget in the last 10 years. That is not the Budget Control Act’s “sequester,” which was not designed to be implemented, nor is it in any real way “draconian.”

Cambridge, Mass.

Internet sales tax would harm struggling shoppers

From Bruce Hahn, president of the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance and the American Homeowners Foundation

If the Marketplace Equity Act passes, a Cyber Monday would mark a huge tax increase on American consumers (“Record sales expected on Cyber Monday,” Nov. 26). This legislation would require consumers to pay a sales tax on even more of the products they buy online, despite the fact that the 85 percent of voters oppose any sales tax on their Internet purchases. 

One of the reasons that Internet commerce continues to grow dramatically is that hard-pressed consumers in today’s economy increasingly buy more of the things they need on the Internet in order to save money. Many can only afford to buy used or refurbished products and they also save the cost of driving to the mall. This bill would increase the tax burden on those least able to afford it and would deepen the recession.

Increasing taxes in this economy is a bad idea, and state and local governments have far less objectionable alternatives if they need additional tax revenues. A far better alternative to this legislation would be a bill that would create a permanent state and local sales tax moratorium on all Internet purchases.

Arlington, Va.