Monday, October 5, 2009

Fox, Meet Henhouse

Over and over and over again former lobbyists from various industries are hired to regulate the very industries they previously represented as lobbyists. Something about that just smells wrong, doesn't it? And this malodorous putrefaction continues assaulting the national senses regardless of which party is in power. The moneyed interests don't really care all that much who is "in power," because they can all be bought, for pretty damn cheap.

So we had this great landslide election last year, and we celebrated with tears streaming down our faces and cheered until we were hoarse because we'd ushered in "change we can believe in." But at the Fighting Bob Fest last month, Jim Hightower reminded us that what we won last November was "a chance to make progressive change" and that "our agitation is more important than ever."

In an article entitled "Ignore and Consent," Daniel Schulman recounts the "vetting" last week in the Senate Agriculture Committee of Scott O'Malia, who is "a Republican Senate staffer selected by President Obama to fill an open seat on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission."

According to the CFTC website, "Congress created the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in 1974 as an independent agency with the mandate to regulate commodity [agriculture and energy] futures and option markets in the United States." This is no mere advisory committee (some clout); this is a regulatory agency (more clout).

But according to a previous article Schulman coauthored with David Corn,
O'Malia . . . worked as an aide to [Senator Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] for nine years before becoming the director of federal legislative affairs for Mirant, an Atlanta-based electricity company. At Mirant, according to House and Senate records, O'Malia was registered in 2001 and 2002 to lobby for deregulation on a number of legislative fronts. [emphasis added]
Doesn't that just give you goosebumps? Oh, those lucky hens to have such a conscientious guardian for their henhouse!

During his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama had this to say about about the role of lobbyists in government:
We're here because for too long, the doors of Washington have been thrown open to an army of lobbyists and special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play—who have shredded consumer protections, fought against commonsense regulations and rules of the road, and distorted our economy so that it works for them instead of you....

We must reform our lobbyist-driven politics. We must reform the waste and abuse in our government. We must reform the rules of the road that let Wall Street run wild and stuck Main Street with the bill. We must change Washington now....

This change will not be easy. It will require reforming our politics by taking power away from the lobbyists who kill good ideas and good plans with secret meetings and campaign checks. [emphasis added]
—Barack Obama, Green Bay, Wisconsin, September 22, 2008
Do the folks in the administration think we have forgotten this stuff? Do they think we gave the Dems a mandate because Obama is a swell guy and we like his panache? No question, Obama knows how to talk the talk. But we need to see some better progress on walking the walk. Since when does "change we can believe in" equal "business as usual"?

Then there was this little snippet today at MSNBC's FirstRead: "A new Obama administration policy limiting the roles of lobbyists on federal advisory committees is stirring up 'absolute fury,' a lobbyist is quoted as saying." "Absolute fury," that is, on the part of the lobbyists. Poor things. Absolute fury. Can you imagine? This potential reform is mild compared to the shakedown that's in order. I'll call your "absolute fury" and raise you one "populist outrage."

So, it's time to agitate (I'm agitated, aren't you?) and make the most of the chance we gave ourselves last fall to make real progressive change. Write to members of the Senate agriculture committee and tell them boot the foxes out of the henhouse.

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