The President's Very Special Special Interests

On January 23, 2010, President Obama made a solemn pinky promise with America to protect us from “special interests” that would turn this wonderful country into, well, something really awful. Indeed, he gave his speech a special title, just to make sure we were clear on his stance against “special interests”.


WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Vows to Continue Standing Up to the Special Interests on Behalf of the American People

And here’s his vow:

A hundred years ago, one of the great Republican Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, fought to limit special interest spending and influence over American political campaigns and warned of the impact of unbridled, corporate spending. His message rings as true as ever today, in this age of mass communications, when the decks are too often stacked against ordinary Americans. And as long as I’m your President, I’ll never stop fighting to make sure that the most powerful voice in Washington belongs to you.

So how’s that whole “standing up to special interest” venture of his coming along? Are our voices “the most powerful” yet? Are special interests not getting their way? Let’s ask Timothy Carney, who has done a little digging into what those dastardly “special interests” have wanted from Washington and what they’ve gotten.

General Electric once again spent more money on lobbying than any other company — $8.3 million last quarter (Pacific Gas & Electric reported $18.2 million in quarterly spending, but almost all of that was dedicated to opposing a state-level ballot measure in California). GE is also one of the two companies, together with Google, that is most in sync with the Obama administration.

Just after Obama’s inauguration, GE CEO Jeff Immelt wrote that “the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.” Immelt told shareholders, “GE’s broad technical portfolio positions us as a natural partner as the role of government increases in the current crisis.”

True to his word, Immelt has positioned GE to benefit from all sorts of Obama initiatives — and of course, GE’s league-leading lobbying squad has worked Capitol Hill to support and craft these initiatives.


Of course, General Electric’s lobbying interests don’t include the advocacy work of the news and opinion departments of both NBC and MS-NBC, who remain steadfast allies of the administration.

But that’s just one company working, largely, in one sector. I mean, sure, ConocoPhillips and Shell, the two biggest oil company lobbying companies are also shoulder to shoulder with the administration on “cap and trade”, but maybe that’s all an aberration. Maybe the administration is just behind in this sector because it’s been ever so busy doing battle with the devious hordes of special interest lobbyists on other fronts, like health care and key Senate races.

Or not.

The top three trade lobbies — lobbying groups that represent single industries — are all health-sector lobbies that vocally and repeatedly supported Obama’s health care overhaul.

The American Medical Association was first among single-industry lobbies last quarter, followed by the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the American Hospital Association.

Not only did these groups help push Obamacare across the finish line, they have also rallied behind Obama’s controversial Medicare chief Donald Berwick. PhRMA has run campaign ads supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the group’s new president was an Obama donor.


Oh. Oh, dear. And we can also toss in the AARP, which dished out over $4 million to get Obamacare passed and its CEO, who maxed out his personal contributions to the President.

Perhaps I’m confused on this, though. It’s possible that the President considers these incredibly wealthy, very influential corporations just another bunch of “average Americans” whose voice he wants to hear. Certainly, groups of people who come together to do business have as much right to be heard in the political arena as individuals. That’s what the First Amendment is all about, after all. But if that’s true, if the President really sees the corporations who pour tens of millions of dollars into his campaign coffers as the strong voices in need of his protection, then who does that leave to suffer under the coercive power of his administration?

(Read this post and more from Jimmie at his blog The Sundries Shack or listen to his weekly political and pop-culture podcast, The Delivery)

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