In the News: USA Today: Lobbyists aren’t the problem

Lobbyists aren’t the problem

By Bradley A. Smith

Say this much for convicted felon Jack Abramoff — he’s still out there pushing the envelope. But his onetime associate Neil Volz — who also pleaded guilty to bribery — has a much more thoughtful take on the issue of lobbying.

Recently Volz, who unlike Abramoff seems to have reflected on his actions and grown wiser and better, wrote, “The idea that most members of Congress are taking bribes is ludicrous. Jack and I both know better. The concept of everyone in Washington being on the take is a dangerous narrative. It suggests that people like Jack and I were merely victims of our environment. Under that theory, we were just doing what everybody was doing, as if giving elected officials the gift of a free no-work, six-figure golf trip to Scotland is somehow the same as the Farm Bureau hosting an event on Capitol Hill or a community leader giving a congressman a free sweatshirt from his local university.”

The big problem is not bribery, and it is not lobbyists. We can extend the cooling off period for former members and staffers, but we’d be kidding ourselves to think that that will fundamentally change Washington. Just because former members and staffers have to wait longer to lobby doesn’t mean that there won’t be lobbyists.

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