Think of the next $30 billion investment in General Motors as an inside-the-Beltway stimulus package. By keeping the automaker afloat, Barack Obama hopes to save jobs, and he will … especially on K Street, whose lobbying practices earned the firms there nothing but scorn from Candidate Obama:
General Motors will continue its multimillion-dollar lobbying operation in Washington, even after the federal government takes ownership of it. The automaker may even maintain its high-dollar lobbying contracts with some of the wealthiest and most influential K Street firms.
“We believe we have an obligation to remain engaged at the federal and state levels,” General Motors stated in an e-mail after President Barack Obama announced his plan for the federal takeover of the carmaker, “and to have our voice heard in the policymaking process.”
As a result, some of the jobs that the White House will save with this unprecedented nationalization could be on K Street in downtown D.C., rather than in Detroit.
GM spent $13.1 on lobbying in 2008. In the first quarter of this year, while surviving on federal bailout money, the company’s lobbying tab was $2.8 million.
Just to make this clear, lobbying is a Constitutionally-guaranteed right. The First Amendment explicitly protects the process of petitioning the government for redress of grievances, which is exactly what lobbying does. It allows people to aggregate for better effectiveness on issues in order to make their voices heard, and lobbying firms fill a free-market function by making people more effective at doing it. Lobbying in and of itself is not evil, nor is it inherently corrupt, although it can certainly lead to corruption when politicians sell themselves for political favors and fundraising.
All that said, Government Motors is right now running off of the taxpayer dime. If it is illegitimate for TARP recipients to hold business in Las Vegas, as Barack Obama insisted not long ago, then perhaps the same can be said for spending millions of dollars from the nation’s Treasury to attempt to influence lawmakers. The money showered on K Street will eventually get used for fundraisers for the very politicians who approved the bailout of GM, making this in effect a positive-reinforcement loop for corporatism.
Obama spent a lot of time unfairly demonizing lobbyists on the campaign trail, promising to keep them out of government, a pledge he has repeatedly broken. Why is he so silent on a government-owned enterprise spending millions on lobbyists now?