The economy is crashing. Unemployment is higher than anytime in the last 26 years. Barack Obama has promised to save and create jobs, and according to the Washington Post, he’s succeeding — but in a peculiar way:
Last month, just before Valentine’s Day, business at Holland & Knight was so slow that the law firm laid off more than 240 lawyers and staff, victims of the economic downturn that has dented Washington’s reputation for being recession-proof.
But one area of the multi-service firm was thriving. Rich Gold, head of the firm’s public policy and regulation practice, was hiring more than a dozen lobbyists, bringing his federal lobbying team to about 70, every one of them scrambling to stay on top of provisions and changes in the mammoth economic recovery package that was barreling through Congress. They were handling about 240 clients, including 50 new ones, all eager to win a portion of the stimulus that President Obama wanted passed. …
Put another way, Main Street’s gloom has been K Street’s boon.
The $787 billion stimulus package — along with an ambitious new federal budget, bank bailouts and the beginning of a regulatory overhaul — has succeeded in stimulating the economy along Washington’s avenue of influence. In the months since the November election, more than 2,000 cities, companies and associations have hired lobbyists to help them push their agendas on Capitol Hill and at the White House, easily outpacing such numbers after the previous two elections, according to disclosure records.
Nearly every industry and every corner of the country has an issue, especially with so much money at stake.
Irony alert! Obama campaigned on limiting lobbyist influence, and imposed a lobbyist ban at the White House so onerous that he’s been forced to issue dozens of waivers to it. His stimulus team promulgated an unconstitutional restriction on communications with lobbyists that looks more like a scheme to avoid prostitution entrapment. Yet K Street hasn’t been limited at all — in fact, they’re positively energized.
Why? Government funding attracts lobbyists, and the more there is, the more you’ll get. When government takes taxes out of the pockets of its citizens for the purposes of redistribution, especially on the massive scale of Porkulus, the rewards make it worth hiring people to get some of the money back. As more and more people decide to organize to get their hands on government project money, more and more lobbyists get hired to represent them — and they make more and more connections with politicians in Washington to ensure their success.
If Obama really wanted to eliminate lobbyist influence, he would cut government spending and starve lobbyists out of K Street. That’s why the Republican Revolution went off the rails when Tom DeLay concocted the K Street Project in the mid-1990s, purportedly to create a permanent Republican majority. In order to kiss up to K Street, DeLay and the GOP had to guarantee an increasing flow of government funds as spoils to split for lobbyists and their clients. Obama’s Porkulus simply takes the same approach, magnified exponentially.
The explosion of employment on K Street is ironic … and utterly predictable.