Antonio Malcolm

Software Engineer/Designer/Developer,

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Should lobbying to US Congress once again be illegal?

There was a time when lobbying in the US was illegal, a time when lobbyists were referred to, disdainfully, as "information peddlers". How do you feel about making lobbying illegal, once again? Do you think that would help protect us from legislation geared toward benefiting corporations and banks at our expense? Your thoughts?

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    Nov 1 2011: From a poor country like mine , which is branded also as highly corrupt one by media & international agencies (I don't disagree neither I can agree about the propaganda ) I see LOBBYING is nothing but civilized name of CORRUPTION.

    My answer is a huge YES to your question, though one can ask what is in it for you , you are not an American ?
    Yes I am not, but economy is connected with that huge power center in this unipolar world.
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      Nov 2 2011: This is an interesting take on the matter, if for no other reason than it comes from someone outside the US, who sees more how our policy here has an international effect. If I haven't responded yet, it is only because I want to take more time to better articulate my response.
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        Nov 3 2011: Its not only economic connection but also political influence which is linked with. Just as an example one of the Bangladeshi who has charge against him for criminal and inhumane act during our indpependance war in 1971 in recent year was brought under law enforcement agency. With strong ME connection that person (now CEO of an NGO funded by ME countries and is linked with terrorist Islamic activity inside country in disguise) appointed lobbyist in US spending few hundred million dollars to brand his trial process as violation of human rights !!!

        He is known killer , rapist of 1971 and due to political favor from army rulers in of past and also strong link with US lobby group he was safe so far......... don't know whether trial can happen for him or not now as he has money to appoint lobbyist and he also has Middle East connection from where he can draw money more over US interest and friendship with tyrranic mME rulers is a known fact.
  • Nov 2 2011: Antonio
    All things considered, yes we should at least place a partial ban on lobbying. We all know it will contiue, but perhaps we can regulate the influence somewhat. Also full disclosure by sitting congressmen and senators of who they are accepting money from aa a way to judge that behavior over against their actual votes. I think it is too easy for many of them to follow into "sloppy reporting habits."

    More regulation and open disclosure would not protect us, but perhaps we could work harder at protecting ourselves against the sharks.
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    Nov 1 2011: Governments should gain their information from credible unbiased sources. Lobbying is often just another name for buying influence and it is time that it was stopped. I think it could be replaced by written documents submitted to governmental representatives from registered participants who must all adhere to the same format and rules regarding length and content. All assertions must be backed up by reference materials. If any submitter is discovered to have submitted inaccurate or misleading statements or 'proofs' there should be an automatic expulsion and banning from further submissions.
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      Nov 2 2011: I'm not sure we should ban ALL further submissions, but, mayhaps, any further submissions by that entity aimed at the same piece of policy or legislation. Or, maybe apply a time penalty of several years (or until whenever this policy comes up for review again), plus a fine.
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    Nov 1 2011: YES YES YES !!!!!
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      Nov 1 2011: I appreciate your enthusiasm, as I'm inclined to agree ;o)
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    Nov 23 2011: I am not sure lobbying in and of itself is wrong. Congress people have lots of issues to deal with and lobbying can be a way they can gather information to make better informed decisions. True it will be one sided information favorable to he company who send them but it will be information that they can use to make decisions. The rest of the payoffs etc. will have to be a choice made by congress to clean up their own act and do the job we sent them there to do. There is a light at the end of the tunnel with the new congress men and women that we sent to congress and how they are fulfilling the mandates they were given. They just need to stay true to their commitment to the people. Maybe a better way would be term limits and then they return to the work and society they created. More like having Nancy Pelosi try to start a business in The City under the rules she has approved to defeat business and some of the silly rules The City has created in the council like not pet shops etc.
  • Nov 2 2011: I'm of the opinion that you'llhave a very hard time defining what you mean by "well oiled lobbist groups" in such a way that: 1) Is enforcible, meaning that it's objectively clear to everyone who is, and who isn't prohibited. and 2) Doesn't also include paid representatives of organizations that you happen to support.
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      Nov 2 2011: I don't think so; not once you define which policy decisions are best for the people as a whole, as opposed to those which benefit a few, with the possibility of also being at the cost of the whole. This is really not so difficult.
      • Nov 2 2011: Hi Antonio,

        If you can get universal agreement on policy decisions then you are a much better persuader than I am.

        Best wishes,
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          Nov 3 2011: I don't think WE (keyword there) need universal agreement, only a strong, voiced majority, and a few key policy makers who want to make good decisions.
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      Nov 23 2011: I agree with Doug that it's difficult to separate permissible contact with legislators from that which should not be permitted. I also agree with Antonio that it's worthwhile to try.

      We could start with the principle that the Senator or Representative is first of all a representative for his/her state or district, and that his/her constituents have first priority to see the representative. We can require that all of the rep's office appointments (excepting those with individual constituents) be public, voice or video recorded and available through the internet. There are enough possible actions that some may be found that are useful.

      The key is to eliminate the quid-pro-quo deal-making by lobbyists, especially related to promises of campaign funds. I'm not switching topics here, Antonio, but a change to public funding of campaigns would take the sting out of much lobbying, since it would remove the corporate lobbyist's favorite tool. Of course, all this requires that Congress adopt rules that would reduce their own financial advantage (as incumbents) in elections, and do we really think they would do that? (A possible solution at my: )
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    Nov 2 2011: .
    No. There should be more lobbying.

    This is the only way to bring liberal capitalism to its conclusion. The decay has begun, but only gradually. We must now encourage it to become a corpse.

    There's no other way. All resistance is futile and will be coopted.

    Let capitalism eat itself. Let its inherent cannibalism swallow the system.
    • Nov 2 2011: Interesting thought I just do not want to be the thing eaten. I know there are tons of people who agree with you.
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        Nov 3 2011: Agree with you Michael.

        Laurens at Occupy Cafe we have been exploring the idea of a sustainable economy..and looking beyond sustaianable to "thriveability".

        W need a money system

        We need at banking system

        Not the one we have allowed to comeinto being.

        One that serves the needs of and is accountable to the 99%.

        The death of the beast we ourselves have fed and nurtured with our credit cards our second mortages our hunger for the latest app the latest Ipad, the latest in technology..will take us with it
        It's nt lik eit i sjust going o roll over and die and leave us standing.

        We have to strat right now rebuilding what that looks like.

        As to the heart of this question, I think all camapaigns should be on a level playing field with public exceptions. Strict adherence to and oversight of absolutely no gist or perks of any kind from any one ..companies and their lobbyists powerful individuals.

        In my day on the banking board and throughout my 25 year career in NYC as an appointed official we had an adhered to very very strict and closely minitored rules on gifts and percs Absolutely no resaon we can't have that right now. This would be the perfect moment to implement it. Before the 2012 campaigns..

        We do need to be informed about the needs and operations of each segment of our econom but that can be done through public hearings public frums which we can all view ( via video technology) and interact with.
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      Nov 2 2011: I am going to avoid looking at this from a partisan point of view, and discourage others to do the same. For one thing, our issues are equally the result of conservative action as they are liberal. There's really no 'innocent' party here.
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        Nov 3 2011: I'm sorry, since when are there just 2 parties in a democracy? A two-party democracy is an oxymoron.

        Aren't there any green or communist parties in the USA? I bet there are.
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          Nov 3 2011: Of course, you are right, Laurens.
          I, myself, subscribe to the "Staying On Topic vs Simply Trolling For An Argument" party...
        • Nov 6 2011: If there were they'd be under constant surveillance by the FBI!
      • Nov 3 2011: Antonio
        That is a very true statement about "innocence". Hold us to your idea of non-partisan blame.
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      Nov 3 2011: i wonder how can lobbying bring "liberal capitalism" anywhere. in "liberal capitalism", there is no strong government to lobby in the first place. the very existence of lobbying implies non liberal capitalism. lobbying happens only in etatist, corporatist, interventionist systems. the system we have today.
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    Nov 2 2011: I think the main problem here is not the lobbying, but the politicians. Lobbying has become a word with quite negative connotations, people usually think of lobbying for the oil or the tobacco industry. But there can of course also be lobbying for good purposes. The problem is the politicians who often ignore meaningful things and concentrate on those with the most profit.
  • Nov 2 2011: Lobbying, according to Tim Blackburn, is communication; that it's all special, one-percenters is a misconception. Bypass K Street and flood DC with emails and Occupy DC Electronically!!!
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      Nov 2 2011: Then perhaps Occupy should go to Congress and lobby there the same way the big companies do?
      (That's not sarcasm, BTW...)
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    Nov 2 2011: I'm tempted to say yes honestly. It seems lobbies are hardly ever in the interest of a a majority of citizens. The loss of influence of many lobbies would be enormously welcome.
  • Nov 2 2011: So? You want regulations that prevent you from going to your government and promoting regulations that would prevent you from asking for new regulations?

    The point is that it is very hard to define exactly what you mean by lobbying. Do you really want a court to decide who can petition a government, and who can't?

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
    • Nov 2 2011: Actually petitioning the government is one thing, the well oiled lobbyist groups are another. You would not limit personal freedom a smidgen by placing well thought out limits and appropriate reporting of lobbying influence. What you might limit is the easy pay-off and the fast buck legislation.

      Confusing personal freedom with lobbyists is to shift the discussion completely.
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      Nov 2 2011: Indeed, it ought to work as Michael M stated, and if you look into the history/origins of lobbying, this is EXACTLY how it was intended to work, and lobbying has simply mutated, mutilated, and confused the process. We, as citizens, have access to write and petition our representatives without the need for lobbying. Lobbying, as its history points out, involves corporate entities hiring individuals whose job it is to "lobby" around congressmen and other representatives to massage policy in a way which supports their ability to fatten their profit margins. I'll point out again that this was, at one time, illegal.
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    Nov 1 2011: what difference does it make? the entire process is already on the verge of crime, and if not, it is at least throughly immoral and harmful. the logic of it is this simple: either politicians know what is good or not. if they do, they should do that, and don't listen to interest groups. if they don't, leave. this job is not for you then.

    but the system will not and can not regulate itself. actually, nothing can regulate itself without checks from outside. self check is kind of an oxymoron. (bear in mind that we are talking about moral, not efficiency. you can check yourself on efficiency of course.)

    so if people condemn and reject the influence of interest groups, they can simply act accordingly on the elections. if they largely don't care, no law will prevent interest groups from bribing those that are willing to be bribed.
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      Nov 1 2011: I don't know that I share your lack of hope or confidence; I tend to think regulations are necessary, even when making more informed voting decisions, and one would think, with lobbying being made illegal, so would bribing be. Also, to be considered, I think, is that humans, even the best of us, make mistakes and can be given to corruption. Regulation is one way of preventing this, and maybe part of a greater system of prevention. Our entire system (at least in the US) is one of checks and balances. I think the problem, more or less, is that the citizens have separated themselves from it and allowed it run almost autonomously. I'm almost tempted here, to say something along the lines of what we were discussing in the other conversation...
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        Nov 1 2011: there is a great check and balance: elections. suppose people want to reduce/rise taxes. they elect the candidate who promises tax cut/rise. then the candidate refuses to do so. then you don't vote that person next time. plus this is the time to go to the streets, and protest. you promised something else! get out! no matter how much big corporations want the opposite. people win in the long run.

        so why this does not happen? people don't want megacorporations to finance politicians, who then promise everything and deliver nothing. so why does this happen?

        i think the answer is: because what people actually want, aggregates up to this. people don't have clear vision about economic and foreign issues. they just have some fuzzy image about a good world. people want peace, but in a way that the enemy suddenly disappear. the same people celebrates the assassination of people abroad, without the consent of the country the action takes place in. people want lower taxes and higher government expenditures without getting indebted. people demand to consume above their productivity. people oppose bailouts, but demand stable riskfree employment, and strong american companies to compete in the "trade war". as long as such demands exists and coexist, politicians will always be forced to play games, and try to trick us to believe that at least some of our demands are served well. because what we want is either stupid or impossible or self contradictory.

        why people in the 99% movement support obama? who they think have financed his campaign? this is the kind of doublethink that we need to get rid of. we need to give politicians clear incentives. and we have to be very strict about it. no more votes to corrupt politicians! sheeple! wake up!

        (ps: no, i don't want anyone to vote for perry/romney/cain either.)
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          Nov 1 2011: Again, I agree with you partly, especially with regard to how fuzzy or nonexistent peoples' view of the world is, as well as what they think they want, but I think this is due less to natural stupidity and more to many other factors... maybe something I'll simply call "programmed stupidity", and then save for another part of the conversation (to avoid sidetracking). However, checks and balances goes well beyond mere voting. It's why we have separate branches of government, and why there are organizations within each of those branches which compete with, regulate, and answer to, each other.

          Also, not all within the 99% movement (AKA Occupy) support Obama. Many are quite disgruntled with his lack of effectiveness.
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      Nov 23 2011: I appreciate your faith in elections, Krisztián, but it's not easy. In the U.S., the legislator who makes most promises to most lobbyists winds up with the biggest re-election bank-roll. Funny how that works. And the candidate who spends the most money almost always wins the election. So it's in the legislator's own interest to please lobbyists, and efforts to change the campaign financing laws in Congress have had little success.

      Of course, the voters still have the final say. If (and that's a big IF) every voter decided to not listen to the campaign blather of either incumbents or any other major party candidate (because the Rep and Dem parties are united in supporting the status quo), but simply voted for an independent candidate, that would change the whole picture in one day and would give hope of attacking the influence problem in Washington. I don't see any other course that will work. We've simply got to fire Congress. So you're right: It can be done at the ballot box. But not as long as voters are more influenced by bumper stickers and slogans than by reason, so how much hope should we have ...?.
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        Nov 23 2011: tell me: if i have one billion dollars, how can i convince you to vote for me?
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          Nov 23 2011: If you give your billion to the poor, that might do the trick. Seriously, I'm a hard sell, but you could convince a whole lot of other people for a lot less. Here's how:

          1. Buy a ticket to California.
          2. Give a tenth of your billion to a PR firm.
          3. They'll give you the politician's "haircut-smile-and-blather" course, and
          4. You'll be governor by the next election.
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          Nov 23 2011: Krisztian,
          Convince me by sending me the money and I will put it to good use just like the politicians do ROFL. I can think of lots of good things that could be done. Like reduce the cost of TED conferences so the poor like me can go! Support some of the ideas that come from the TED conferences so that they can become realities that help all of us. Send you to a TED conference for free. Those are just a few of the things I could do with the money. So when can I expect it to arrive? ROFL (ROFL if you do not know is Rolling of floor laughing do not mean to insult you just wanted to be clear)
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        Nov 23 2011: you didn't answer my question. i asked: how can i convince *you* with money!

        or you say i can't convince you, but i can convince others? what is the difference?
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          Nov 23 2011: Well, that is the question I answered, but I'm sorry if I wasn't being direct enough. No, you can't convince me with your billion because for me and millions of other reflective persons, the usual PR and advertising campaigns have little effect on our votes. We (like you, undoubtedly) require serious information to consider and discuss before making choices in an election. Unfortunately, there are far more millions of voters who sway from one candidate to another based on the kind of "name recognition" or media presence that can be bought with money, and that is why the candidate who spends the most money normally wins our elections. Cheers.
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        Nov 23 2011: paul, then i think we can agree on the following: the problem is not democracy, but people who just does not care, and sell themselves to politicians for a small fee.

        i suggest we focus on solving that problem, and not looking for workarounds.
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          Nov 23 2011: We're in full agreement, Krisztián. Of course changing human nature will take a few centuries, speaking optimistically. We'll roll up our sleeves and get started.
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        Nov 23 2011: paul. in the meantime: i have no problem with people selling themselves to politicians. i mean, i don't like it, but it is their business. but i do want them to live me out of this.

        plus, to be on topic, i don't think that this problem can be solved by any regulations coming from the congress.
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    Nov 1 2011: whatever relevance it had has been long gone
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      Nov 1 2011: How so? How has the relevance of this died? If we make lobbying illegal, would it not become more difficult for large corporations and the wealthy elite to influence policy which affects the greater whole? Lobbying is a big tool for these corporations.

      I'm genuinely interested in why you feel this way. I have a feeling many others feel this way, too.
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        Nov 1 2011: i think, back when phones and wires were all we had, and newspapers were the only afordable means of information sharing, i think it could have helped companies. but now, well we have the internet. and its basically free. i cant think why it should still be done today
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          Nov 1 2011: I'm not sure what relevance this has to lobbying Congress...