This USA Today piece examines the bribery and fraud scandals currently rocking Washington. Tens of millions of dollars, along with luxury travel and expensive gifts, have been used to influence or outright bribe members of Congress.
The problems are personified by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who gave money and favors to the rich and powerful, and billed the Indian tribes that were his clients $82 million.
He is cooperating with federal prosecutors on a case that may implicate members of Congress and Bush administration officials.
The Abramoff scandal comes in addition to Republican majority leader Tom DeLay stepping down from his leadership post after being charged with felony conspiracy to launder campaign money, and Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigning after pleading guilty to taking at least $2.4 million in bribes.
32,890 lobbyists were registered last year, three times the number registered ten years ago. Annual spending on lobbying has grown from $800 million in 1996 to $2.2 billion in 2005.
I"ve been following the ethics/lobbying calamity going on in Congress with great interest these past few weeks.
If you"re as time-challenged as I am and looking to get up to speed with this scandal in a hurry, I urge you to read this comprehensive piece from USA Today.
Down near the bottom of this awesome piece is a section on lobbying perks doled out by the bushel to Congressmen to "buy" their influence. In the section on travel favors, Senate Majority Bill Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) -- a familiar name to blog readers for his helpful hand to vaccine makers -- made that list.
Special travel arrangements, according to the piece, are among the best things companies can do to make fast friends with federal legislators.
Frist was the "poster child" for such excesses, using the corporate plane owned by drugmaker Schering-Plough after the 2004 election for multiple trips to the Southeast to congratulate newly elected Republican senators.
Although this article doesn"t dig much deeper on drug companies, this sector remains, without question, the largest political lobby in Congress, so expect some major fireworks before too long. The drug industry employs almost 1,274 lobbyists, including 40 former members of Congress.
Drug companies have spent more than $750 million over the past seven years on lobbying alone. According to government records analyzed by the Center for Public Integrity, that"s more than any other industry!
Next week you will recieve a very special email from me that documents the plan we have to change this rotten drug industry controlled health model. This will be the one of our most important campaigns ever and you will have the opportunity to be a true health champion.
So please participate with us as we gear up towards launching a viral campaign in the next few weeks that will get the media to really start to pay attention to the mission to change the system.