Breaux’s column prompts worries over lobbying power

In his “K Street Insiders” column (“Effective coalitions for coalitions,” March 20), John Breaux writes that he has “proposed the formation of coalitions of coalitions to focus more resources on broad policy issues …” The former senator justifies his proposal by claiming “these groups can become more powerful and more effective than they could be acting alone.” I was struck by the implication that the corporations, associations and labor unions that traditionally make up lobbying coalitions needed to be even more powerful than they already are.

Sen. Breaux cites the Prescription Drug Network, a super-coalition of groups with a direct interest in the Medicare prescription drug bill — most likely pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurance companies and seniors groups such as AARP, whose bottom lines stood to benefit from the new social insurance program. Existing lobbying disclosure rules don’t require super-coalitions like this one to disclose who their members are, what activities they engage in and how much money they spend. That’s because the “network” was engaged in a public relations campaign after the bill became law, ostensibly to “help explain on a national scale the benefits of the Medicare Drug Program.”

Though I’m sure America’s seniors were better off having access to information about the Medicare program, I suspect that campaign to educate them was anything but unbiased. Only if the public knows who the members of these super-coalitions are can we begin to ask whether they represent all viewpoints, or whether they seek to benefit the elite few that have the resources to join coalitions ... let alone coalitions of coalitions.

Washington, D.C.

‘Live Earth’ concert should walk its talk

From Chuck Tyler

Should the Congress resolve the issues raised by the Republican minority regarding the “Live Earth” concert (article, “Inhofe vows to put brakes on Gore’s ‘Live Earth’ concert at the Capitol,” March 29), it has the power to ensure that the goals of the event are adhered to by the event itself.

 … [Congress should ensure] the Architect of the Capitol’s permit for the concert includes provisions similar to the following:
“The licensee shall ensure that: (1) All stage, seating, booths, sound amplification and video devices, and other related structures and equipment ... be constructed of environmentally favorable materials, meeting applicable requirements of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council.
(2) All activities related to the event ... shall result in a neutral or negative carbon footprint as calculated by a nationally recognized, independent testing method acceptable to the Architect of the Capitol.”

Surely the sponsors of the event would welcome requirements that support the purpose of the event!

Grand Haven, Mich.

When has Bush tried ‘compromise’ with Dems?

From Gene Tuck

(Regarding article, “Pelosi tells Bush to ‘calm down threats,’” March 29.) Reporter Jonathan E. Kaplan writes, “Since Democrats took control of the House and Senate in January, Bush has signaled his willingness to cooperate with Democrats on a range of issues — except Iraq and letting his advisers testify under oath about the U.S. attorneys scandal.”

I follow the news pretty closely and I have no memory of any areas where Bush has attempted to “compromise” with the Democrats, and Kaplan doesn’t list any areas in his piece.

Now, you could argue (though Kaplan doesn’t, to his credit) that Bush’s response to Dem subpoenas is an attempt to “compromise.” But I see that as what any thinking person would see: that it’s a deal-breaking offer designed to hide the truth, not divulge it.

Fresno, Calif.