Newspaper portrays lobbyists as a third house of Congress

As a recent subscriber to The Hill, I have been taken aback by how much a part of our government that lobbyists have become. I was aware that lobbyists are pervasive in Washington, but the way they are reported in The Hill makes them seem like a third house of Congress. Therefore, I think you can be reassured that it is unlikely that Congress will go too far in regulating lobbyists.

It is my view that the occupation of professional lobbyist should be made illegal. Members of Congress should get whatever help and information they need on particular issues on request from whatever group or groups are affected by legislation, and not through highly paid and highly motivated third parties.

I do not buy the arguments on what a wonderful service lobbyists provide to the American public. I think that quite the opposite is the truth. One prime example of what lobbyists have wrought is the U.S. tax code. If you do not know what I mean, try reading your way through it sometime when you have a couple of years to spare. Another example is the annual budget of the United States, which always contains thousands of special provisions and exemptions that benefit groups but undermine the general welfare and bloat the budget. Also, I think that lobbyists take up too much time and attention of members of Congress, and this alone operates to the detriment of Congress getting on with its work.

The recent Abramoff scandal, the embodiment of the “one bad apple” theory, only highlights the insidiousness of professional lobbying and points out the logical progression of lobbying efforts. I do not think Abramoff was the only lobbyist to shower free travel, free entertainment, etc., on members of Congress. What is the purpose of such gifts except to incur obligation and obtain influence? Apologists scoff at the idea that a congressman could be bought for the price of a free lunch or a free trip while ignoring the fact that undue influence can be just as insidious as outright bribery. I think it is great that the Democrats passed some ethics legislation but I also think is it disgraceful that such legislation is necessary, that they have to be protected from themselves. This is sort of like hiding the cookie jar from the kids.

I am not foolish enough to think that professional lobbying will be outlawed. In lieu of that, I would settle for having lobbyists appear before committee hearings only and ban all personal contacts with Congress members and their staffs. But, since lobbyists sit cheek by jowl with the members of Congress, I doubt that any restrictions on lobbyists of this kind will ever be enacted.

So, I think you can rest easy that the third house of Congress is in much danger of being inconvenienced. I am sure they will soon come up with a “work around” to the ban on free lunches.

Purcellville, Va.

Many internment-camp victims in WWII not paid

From Arthur D. Jacobs, retired major, U.S. Air Force

(Regarding article, “Patient Conyers hopes to move slavery bill during an Obama administration,” March 13.) As The Hill reported, “Conyers countered that reparations should not be dismissed prematurely, pointing out that trust funds have been established for … World War II-era internment victims ...”

[Although Japanese Americans interned in World War II were awarded reparations], trust funds have not — repeat, have not — been for German American and Italian American victims of internment.

Tempe, Ariz.