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Fifth Principle

           "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love     
            the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other."   
                                                                                             Matthew 6:24

Congress can not work for the American public and the lobbyist industry in Washington. It is perfectly appropriate that Congress listen to all sides of an issue under consideration, but as a Constitutional principle every Congressperson owes his loyalty to  the people - not to special interests.

What is the Revolving door?
  The web site 'opensecrets.org' has extensive and specific files about the relationship between Congress and and the lobbying firms who pull the strings on Congress. Rather than paraphrase, I'll quote - with a hat tip in appreciation.

            "Although the influence powerhouses that line Washington's K Street are just a
             few miles from the U.S. Capitol building, the most direct path between the two
             doesn't necessarily involve public transportation. Instead, it's through a door—
             a revolving door that shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists,
             consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into 
             government careers. While officials in the executive branch, Congress and senior
             congressional staffers spin in and out of the private and public sectors, so too does
             privilege, power, access and, of course, money.

A 'special interest' can be any group from Greenpeace to the NRA. The big players, in terms of lobbying, are the economic giants who get a slice of your paycheck every month - pharmaceuticals,  banking, energy, insurance, and health. When these groups want something to happen - or not happen - they go to the hired guns for which K street is notorious. Lobbying our representatives in Washington is a 3.5 BILLION dollar industry. That's a lot of money for a business whose sole product is preferential legislation.

What does this mean to you? Here's one example. When the pharmaceutical industry wanted a special deal, they hired K Street. The result of Medicare Part D (2003) was that the federal government, who is the biggest consumer of drugs, is not allowed to negotiate prices with drug companies. As a result, Medicare pays 40 to 58% more than the Veterans Administration for the same drugs, which costs the taxpayer billions every year. This is only one example of how lobbying firms can convince Congress to suspend free markets and the natural forces of competition to benefit a single industry.

After the bill passed, the congressman who steered the bill through the House, Billy Tazin R-LA, quit his job with the US Congress and took a job as president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America with a 2 million dollar annual salary. During that same Rx debate the head of Medicare, Thomas Scully, threatened to fire the Medicare Chief Actuary (top accountant) if he reported what the bill would cost the taxpayer. After the bill passed, Thomas Scully left government for a job with a top lobbying firm. Almost ten years later, the taxpayer is saddled with a drug bill 50% higher than it should be and the 'public servants' who engineered the deal are sitting pretty.

It's not just a couple of people, and it's not just Medicare Part D. These same tactics buy tax loopholes, cushy contracts and corporate welfare (subsidies). A total of 372 former members of Congress have take jobs as lobbyists after they resigned or lost reelection. at last count, 298 of these patriots are currently working as lobbyists. It's a bipartisan rogues gallery. Literally thousands of congressional staffers, former government employees, have been hired by lobbyist firms over the years. No Congressman or Senator needs to fear loosing an election - if he is willing to be a whore lobbyist for a lot more cash than he made working for the public. The problem is that if the Congress-person did not sell us out while he is in office, he's trading on the influence of his former office as a lobbyist. This practice always costs the taxpayer in inflated taxes or higher costs at the cash register or reduced consumer protection.

How do you shut the revolving door? The problem is not lobbyists. Everyone, including business and special interests, has a right to petition government. The problem is that we have allowed Congress to 'game' the rules for their personal benefit. Congress writes the laws and those laws have institutionalized corruption. Just because it's legal doesn't make it right! Elected officials and their staff are our employees - they work for us. There is a simple remedy to be found in employment law.

A non-compete clause is a term used in contract law in which the employee agrees not to pursue a similar profession or trade in competition against the employer or former employer.  Non-compete agreements have been upheld in all 50 states. This is important - the non-compete clause has been found binding after the employee has left his former employer.  A modified non-compete agreement could be the basis of a federal law and stipulate that a US Congressman or Senator or any member of the Congressional staff with the authority to affect the content of proposed legislation would be prohibited from working as a lobbyist or for a lobbying firm. They would also be prohibited (for a reasonable period of time) from working for any industry they regulated for a salary greater than they made while they were a Congressman, Senator or congressional staffer (including perks and bonus).

The solution is as clear as the problem. Congress has to work for the people.  No business would allow their  employees, let alone executives, to sell out as shamelessly as our Congress does. Voters are the shareholders of this company and we can require honest leadership.

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