THE LOBBYISTS: How Business Gets Its Way in Washington by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum

THE LOBBYISTS: How Business Gets Its Way in Washington

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An attempt to convey how lobbyists really work in Washington, by Wall Street Journal reporter Birnbaum (coauthor, Showdown at Gucci Gulch, 1987). Birnbaum examines the lobbying process by following the actions of a small number of notable lobbyists, including representatives of the real-estate industry, the truckers, and the universities. He focuses on the 101st Congress (1989-90), which endured an eruption of scandals arising from the close ties between members of Congress and business constituents (leading to, among other results, the resignations of House Speaker Jim Wright and House Democratic Whip Tony Coelho). ""Lobbying,"" Birnbaum notes, ""is not a last-minute vocation, but rather relies on an accumulation of actions over time."" It utilizes economists, lawyers, direct-mail and telephone-sales people, p.r. experts, pollsters, and even accountants. In a notable insight, Birnbaum discerns that ""Washington has become a major marketing center,"" with lobbyists seeing their job as one of persuading ""lawmakers that voters are on the lobbyist's side."" With budgets as well as deficits so large, small changes on the margins can mean large sums of money to favored groups, and both lawmakers and lobbyists often perpetuate these changes--resulting in campaign contributions for the politicians and fees for the lobbyists. Thus, former Carter official Stu Eizenstat, while trying to make the deduction for research and development a permanent part of the tax code for his university clients, benefits when it is renewed only on a year-to-year basis. Similarly, Senator Howard Metzenbaum continues to make lawyers happy by supporting a law that compels railroad workers injured on the job to sue their employers for damages rather than to apply for worker's compensation. An intricate analysis rather than a denunciation--but in focusing on the clay-to-day activities of a handful of highly skilled lobbyists, Birnbaum conveys the ambiguous relationship between Congress and those who solicit its favors.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Times Books