Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Undue Influence

Wealth begets access. Access begets influence. Influence begets power. And power means you get to decide things or things get decided in your favor.

This is how American politics works. Everybody knows it. The folks in power advertise this principle amongst themselves. They pump out their chests and try to prove they have more access (or can guarantee YOU more access) than the next guy.

Yes, EVERYBODY knows this is the basic lay of the political landscape...until, that is, somebody states the obvious. Then, all of a sudden, the powerful act like they've never heard of such a preposterous concept!

I mention this because the Oregonian ran a front page article yesterday entitled, "Laws Make Following the Money Difficult". This story dealt with the fact that the reports submitted to Oregon's ethics commission leave a lot to be desired.

While I certainly agree with the main thrust of the article, the major thing about the article that jumped out at me is that there was NO discussion or even mention of the widespread problem of undue influence. No, the reporter's main beef was in the lack of unambiguous reporting rules.

Obviously, the concept of undue influence was considered so matter-of-fact that the newspaper felt no responsibility whatsoever to include it.

Yet, for me, this is the more crucial issue. Legislators being feted by powerful corporations transforms the very premise of democracy. Throwing around this kind of egregious money is the prime mechanism used to drown out the voice of most citizens.

Think about it for a minute. Let's say you are a state representative. You get invited to a conference in Maui (the article reports that several Oregon reps were, in fact, participants in December of a conference of this kind). Your plane fare and accommodations are covered by the corporations sponsoring the event.

While most Oregonians are enduring the dreary rain of a typical Oregon winter, you get to lounge around on the sunny beaches of Hawaii. Each day's events conclude by early afternoon, so you can sample the warm tropical air, shop, hike or take advantage of the night life.

During the conference itself, you get to hobnob with corporate execs who work very hard to get you to see issues from their point of view. You get to view powerpoint presentations, studies and legislative proposals created to help the bottom line of the sponsoring companies.

Upon your return to rainy Oregon, your contact with average citizens pales in comparison to your prepaid Hawaii "vacation". Some communicate with you via email, phone or mail. You may hold a Town Hall in a local library or senior center. You may even meet in the middle class home of a few constituents.

When it comes time to vote on various legislative measures, what's going to stick out in your mind -- the lukewarm coffee from a poorly-attended Town Hall meeting or the warm nightly breezes of Hawaii?

For most people, the answer will be the latter. It may well even not be conscious. Therefore, all the time and expense taken by the corporations who feted you in Hawaii will be worth it -- to them!

As long as we allow this kind of set-up to persist, this scenario will be repeated over and over again. The powerful of our society know this and it's the primary reason they go to all the expense. They know that you (the legislator) will associate your wonderful experience with the point-of-view they're trying to sell. And they know they can offer a kind of aphrodisiac that the average constituent cannot.

4 comments:

  1. Really cool blog man. Check out free cognition, I think you will like it a lot.

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  2. -
    And/or, in turnabout, (celebrated) position begets influence, influence begets access, access begets wealth (personal). Where the money trail may be garrishly obvious but the lobbying lobbyist is unregistered and thus in no account unaccountable.

    Any citizen lobbying, ("attempting to influence legislative action through oral or written communication with legislative officials," per ORS 171.725(8)), who does "spend an amount in excess of $100," (not counting travel expense, room, board, [171.745(3)], but counting providing 'influential' food, drinks, oo-la-la, photos, copies, postage, telephone, and more such, [171.745(a)(A,B,...)]), channelling 'oral or written communication' upon reaching the 'legislative official,' must lawfully declare and register as a lobbyist in Ethics Commission records. EXCEPT a media employee in the "ordinary course of business" who communicates about lawmaking with lawmakers, only so long as he does "engage in no other activities in connection with the legislative action," [171.735(1)].

    Every time radio-programming Liars Larson telephones a legislator for more than a minute on-air he exceeds the $100 test for 'communication expenses.' He doesn't have to spend that much if he calls them privately, off-air, using a normal phone -- what's a phone call, ten cents a minute? When the 'phone' is a microphone hooked on a 50,000 watt radio transmitter, then a hundred dollars a minute perhaps understates the cost of the call to orally communicate to the legislative official 'to get his mind right,' (a la Cool Hand Luke).

    If would be legal for Liars, as a media employee, not to register as a lobbyist after such over the top spending, IF ONLY he would not engage in other activities (connected with them about that). But he doesn't (not engage). When he's off-air he's out to their parties, he hosts them at his, he speaks at their rallies, he caucusses in their closets, he's handing out or faxing or emailing to people their materials or to them, his; he show-preps with them 'what to leave in, what to leave out,' (Bob Seger), he appears by prior commitment as a celebrated attraction at campaign events, fund raisers, GOP doings and goings-on, but I'll stop. Pick an "other activity," any "other activity." Liars's extracurricular fingerprints are on it, and convicts him in violating the purpose of lobbying regulation, (171.730), and in being a lobbyist unregistered as required and breaking the law of existing Oregon statute.

    Or, in rambling along the dao way, Liars peddles his position (celebrated) of influence for access to get personally stinking filthy rich where audience ratings, and therefore radio ad sales, goes up for having as uncompensated guests in his programming our public officials, political poobahs, and --> legislators <--.

    All that is needed to arrest Liars Larson is a signed citizen complaint delivered to the Government Standards and Practices Commission identifying an unregistered lobbyist the Commission is responsible for registering.
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  3. Tensk, I'm game to co-sign such a complaint if you are...

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  4. -
    No co-signer necessary, last time I checked. Any person has standing to file complaint.
    I appreciate though, that Liars could not take lightly having his anti-social career as behavioral malcontent brat coming to an end with a criminal legacy, and his mentally handicapped personality development combined with his threat-spitting gun-brandishing fear of his own hate inevitably being reflected back to him, gives one pause to think whether it is possible to deal lawfully and civilly with him. At some point, a police officer is going to have to serve warrants and arrest Liars for something he is bound to self-destruct doing, (as I expect is due in the future with the Bushes, too), and peace officers I have talked with about it are reluctant, not to say afraid, to carry out that order, just as the ones sent to apprehend celebrity O.J.Simpson said afterwards they were. For all that, the day and moment that truth stands before him and says 'it's over, you've done enough harm, put down the weapon,' the odds are he is going to cave, go docile, and sink with a whimper like most of the misbegotten who finally stop running from themselves and defeatedly face their hollow life.
    No harm in sticking out a foot for him to trip over though -- go ahead and file. First listen to his programming until he makes one single mention involving any contact with legislation or legislators 'after hours,' including the next time he talks about 'going,' whether it is 'out to dinner,' 'over to a ranch or resort,' 'over to the coast,' etc., and make note of the date and time he says it to put in the complaint as the "activity" beyond the normal course of business, and that is the violation that voids his media-employee exemption from registering as a lobbyist. I posted it to spur that, and maybe many complainants in concert. Public employees or elected officials Liars has victimized might seem to be the natural group, which partly explains why I posted this on Trey's site in Salem. (An exquisite taoist site is also a place Liars never goes, isn't literate enough to read, and doubtfully could find the community revulsion coming at him. Liars already has been sending me hate email in retaliation of my truth-telling comments on BlueOregon.)
    My energy toward Liars' demise comes out of a single heartbeat when I was home caring for and holding my wife one day as she lay dying of breast cancer, and on the radio Liars said "everyone in the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Race for the Cure are all just prejudiced bigots." And the way he said it. Liars should be stripped of his license and never broadcast another word. And not for the pain he seared in me, but for the pain and hate and evil he inflicts, not just on 'this' community, but on the very idea of community, and social grace. He is humanly retarded. With the genes for a saleable voice sound, which is not anything he ever did or accomplished to earn. He has never done nothing. He fumes spiteful hate for life. I have never understood why Paul Allen could not honor my several requests to him to dispose of Liars. I assume Liars' words are Paul's words. It's like what Trey says about The Oregonian reporter failing to write the facts -- the crimes against our social good are simply assumed, taken for granted to exist and be committed in relation to the corruption that power infects in elected officials and influence-craving celebrities. But I personally know that not all of 'them' are like that, corrupted. Liars is. By association, Paul seems guilty, too.


    Enough. Do it if you choose. It's your world Liars destroys, too. Read the 171. statutes for directions, or ask me again.
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