Sunday, January 08, 2006

Post Story on Lobbying a Bit Off

Can't we stop this idiotic tying of the word "lobbyist" to the Willard Hotel. In 1808 Congress debated a bill to move the capital back to Philadelphia. One of the proponents argued that by going back to a real city members would benefit from expert advice offered by "the lobby." But author of the Washington Post "Can I Lobby You" doesn't have to be a historian to realize that with Congress passing a new tariff bill about every four years, it was not immune to influence peddlers. By the 1830s when the House Ways and Means Committee got down to work, the hallways outside were crawling with lobbyists.

As for the main point of the article, the Bill of Rights guarantee "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," refers to a transparent tradition of trying to influence legislative bodies. In the 1790s for example people formally assembled in public, elected a chairman, discussed the burning issue of the day, drew up resolves, debated them, passed them, signed them and published them or sent the signed resolutions to Congress. That was the upright American way of doing it. Everyone frowned at the idea of raising money and hiring some old congressman to wine and dine politicians. Of course, they did it because it worked. In the 1820s Ramsey Crooks, John Jacob Astor's assistant, set up shop in Brown's Hotel just below Capitol Hill and wrote the bills he wanted passed, wrote the speeches in support of the bills, and stayed in town and entertained until the bills became law.


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