Cycle of Greed

From the March 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

In 1913, Woodrow Wilson said you couldn’t throw a brick in Washington, D.C., without hitting a lobbyist. Ninety years or so later, little has changed: An overwhelming number of cash-laden lobbyists still seek to influence politicians who need funds. Glorified access-peddling has grown into a $4 billion industry.

The job description is relatively straightforward: A lobbyist is paid by a corporation or any other donor to act as an intermediary between the corporation and the politicians who write the legislation under which that corporation must operate. The more friends a lobbyist has on Capitol Hill, the more effective and in demand he or she will be.

Doing the job in a legal and ethical manner is quite difficult. Just ask high-flying Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The now-infamous lobbyist at the center of a widely publicized scandal pleaded guilty in early January to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. On top of it all, Abramoff agreed to a plea deal in which he promised to provide evidence about the actions (many likely to be illegal) of numerous members of Congress, as well as other prominent politicians.

As details of this story emerged, politicians and reporters were quick to highlight the potential ramifications of the case. The Washington Post stated, “The plea deal could have enormous legal and political consequences for the lawmakers on whom Abramoff lavished luxury trips, skybox fundraisers, campaign contributions, jobs for their spouses, and meals at Signatures, the lobbyist’s upscale restaurant” (January 4).

If the reaction of many politicians to Abramoff’s plea deal is anything to go by, the chance of further criminal implications is high. As news of the plea bargain filtered through America’s political elite, politicians rushed to publicly sever their ties with the once-popular Abramoff. News of various politicians digging out their checkbooks and giving to charity any money they had received from Abramoff was everywhere.

A lot has yet to be revealed about the Abramoff case and the true extent of how many politicians are actually involved in this scandal. But one thing we can already learn: The days when national law was shaped by biblical laws, morals and ethics and a spirit of fairness and well-being for American citizens are gone. That basis for law is being replaced with a foundation of greed and lust for wealth and power. Money has become the driving factor in American politics.

The pressure on politicians to raise enough money to be noticed leaves many of them exposed to the smooth tongues of cash-rich lobbyists who are prepared to give massive donations in return for legislative favors and other concessions.

This cycle of greed has permeated American politics and aided a severe crisis in leadership. To learn more, read our September/October 2002 Trumpet article “Why This World Lacks Leadership.