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Both Google and Apple are trying to sway members of Congress to give them preferential treatment

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iOS versus Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android launched with similar mindsets -- upsetting the status quo of the mobile phone industry and becoming the world's most used smartphone platform.  Both platforms have achieved that goal to a large extent, but as the company's each borrowed ideas from the other and changed their product to mimic the other's successes, bitterness grew between the pair. This bitterness eventually exploded in a worldwide patent war, a war which consumes Apple, Google, and the companies that rely on Google's operating system.

I. Dividing the Enthusiast Community

The ongoing "nuclear war" between Apple and Android deeply divides the enthusiast community.

IPhone owners tend  to defend Apple's right to litigate, arguing that Apple's iconic iPhone defined what a "smartphone" meant, a model closely followed by subsequent Android devices.  

While only the most extreme truly wish for a complete ban on Android handsets, Apple fans are swift to point that Apple was not the first smartphone giant to start internation litigation (that was Finland's Nokia Oyj. (OMX:NOK1V) in 2009, who ironically sued Apple) and that some smartphone makers followed the look and UI layout of Apple closer than others.

Steve Jobs
Steven P. Jobs' dying wish of "thermonuclear war" with Android is dividing the nation.

Android owners, meanwhile, balk at the idea of a ban on the world's best-selling smartphone platform, accusing Apple of malfeasance.  They point out that Apple didn't "invent" much of its innovations (multi-touch, Gorilla Glass, Retina displays, etc.), it bought them.  

They also point to Apple turning to copy some aspects of Android (the notifications bar, and soon -- potentially -- the larger screen size).  Lastly, they point to Apple's own history of liberally "borrowing" operating system ideas from others like Xerox Corp. (XRX) then later settling without caustic measures such as sales bans.

II. Tim Cook Goes to Washington

But for better or worse the hostility between the pair shows no signs of easing with the largest Android manufacturer Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) reaching an impasse in settlement talks with Apple, leading both companies' CEOs to walk out on negotiations regarding a potential cross-licensing truce.

Apple CEO Timothy Cook was in Washington this week, meeting with lawmakers in an effort to emphasize his company's importance to the American economy.  While the patent strife was not directly discussed, it's clear such discussions could steer decisions on potential product bans on a federal level.

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook chats with Rep. Boehner(R) [Image Source: Rep. Boehner]

The visit was unusual as Apple spends only a small amount on government lobbying, despite enjoying some of the perks of typical heavy lobbiers, such as liberal tax exemptions.  Despite claims of government favoritism, Apple only spent $500,000 USD on lobbying in Q1 2012, about a tenth of what Google spent.

Apple also does not have a political action committee (PAC) to funnel larger donations to candidates via fund-raising events.  Google and others maintain large PACs.

If appearances are accurate, Apple did much with little in terms of lobbying.  In modern U.S. federal politics where money (effectively, bribes) are necessary to purchase almost any sort of bipartisan action, Apple's contributions were small and selective.  Apple also relied on its late CEO Steven P. Jobs fame and close relationships with top U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama (D).

But Apple is wising up to the fact that in order to defeat lobbying giant Google, it may need to change to more of a standard corporate lobbying footprint.  In Washington, D.C. Mr. Cook reportedly met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), leaders on both sides of the aisle that control Congress.

The Apple leader emphasized points that hit close to home.  For example he chatted with Minority Leader McConnell about how his iPad and iPhone use glass that's produced at a Corning Inc. (GLW) plant in Kentucky (of course, so are Android phones' screens).

The talk of domestic production reminds the federal government of the pressure to avoid a U.S. International Trade Commission ban on imports of the iPhone and iPad (Samsung, new Google unit Motorola, and HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) all have pending ITC complaints against Apple, seeking injunctions).  Wit that said, Mr. Cook reportedly avoided explicitly discussing the court battle or import battle at the ITC.

Of course, such visits also could behoove Apple in terms of getting further tax favors, though the timing suggests possible ties to the Android patent dispute.  (Google's efforts have also focused heavily on greasing the wheels to lower taxes.)

And then there's Apple's troubles with the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged e-book price fixing.  The DOJ is actively suing Apple, claiming it sought an e-book monopoly.  Apple has vigorously denied these accusations.  Some friends on both sides of the aisle could encourage the DOJ to compromise and avoid punitive litigation.

III. Apple Follows in Google's Footsteps Becoming Begrudging Lobbyist

Reportedly Mr. Cook is interested in expanding Apple's lobbying efforts, something his predecessor Steve Jobs frowned upon.  A source speaking to Fortune comments, "They were quiet and focused. There was no public statement, no press conference, no hoopla, just like the company, which is focused on product design and end results.  [Cook] has a strong personal interest in policy issues and recognizes the role an engaged CEO can play in making a difference on those policy priorities."

A Congressional aide added, "It was an act of opening up a line of communication, but it was a first step in what hopefully will be a growing relationship. They didn't become best buds in one meeting."

Bribes
[Image Source: Business Ethics]

Google, like Apple, wasn't always so politically vociferous.  Both companies dodged requests to testify before the U.S. Congress in 2010 privacy hearings, leading Sen. Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to snap, "When people don't show up when we asked them to… all it does is increase our interest in what they're doing and why they don't show up… It was a stupid mistake for them not to show up, and I say shame on them."

But with powerful industry rivals backing potentially catastrophically damaging legislation like the Orwellian "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261), Google rapidly discovered that lobbying could not only lead to tax favors, but also help win it key allies in corporate battles (big media companies, for example paid 10 percent of active Senators' election costs to get the SOPA build written and moved to debate).

IV. Are Product Bans on ANY Device Good for Americans?

The issue with both Apple and Google's lobbying is not only a question of tax policy fairness, or lack thereof, or fairness in terms of antitrust policy.  

Given the company's outstanding legal war, it also becomes problematic in the sense of whether justice will truly be blind, particularly in federal organizations like the ITC who are directly run by appointees of   officials in Congress or the U.S. President -- politicians who take millions in lobbyist money (hundreds of millions in President Obama's case) to get elected.

Banning any product limits consumer choice.  Unfortunately, perhaps, the ITC and U.S. Customs and Border Control have a stranglehold on damaging product bans, given that all major manufacturers -- Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Apple, and others -- manufacture their smartphones in China.

Apple vs Samsung
Apple and Android are fighting in court and in Washingon, D.C. [Image Source: PhoneBuff]

Aside from the consumer impact, there's a secondary question of U.S. jobs.  Apple clearly is emphasizing its importance to U.S. jobs and that importance is not to be neglected.  But Motorola, one of Apple's targets is also a top U.S. tech firm employing thousands -- as is Google.  While Apple did not start the fight with Motorola, versus Asian Android giants Samsung and HTC, today Motorola is facing the same prospect of import bans.

And while Apple's efforts against the Asian Android smartphone giants may not appear to affect American jobs, they likely will given that over half of Samsung's system-on-a-chip production is sourced in Texas.  Likewise, all of the major Android manfuacturers use glass from Corning and chips from other companies like Intel Corp. (INTC) unit Infineon or Californian-based Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) in their smartphone.  Likewise, if handsets are banned American telecommunications companies like Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD), and AT&T, Inc. (T) will be adversely impacted.

Thus while an Android ban would hit Taiwan (HTC's home country) and South Korea (Samsung's home) first, it would create a ripple effect harming many jobs.

Jobs needed shirt
Product bans of either Apple or Android devices could cost American jobs -- but are politicians concerned? [Image Source: NPR]

Ultimately U.S. courts, in a "best case" scenario, may opt for slaps on the wrists of Apple and its rivals, as Netherlands and the other regions have done in concluded patent spats.  But given that the ITC has already doled out two product bans, hope of a tidy resolution may be misplaced.

This nuclear war may claim an unknown amount of casualties in the form of competition and American jobs.  But Apple and Google both remain resolute, firm in their efforts to lobby Congress for preferential treatment and to try to end each other's market offerings in court.

Source: Fortune



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RE: This makes me sick
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/29/2012 7:54:29 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
And you're basing this opinion on what exactly?
He's right. The reason why is because the government dictates tax policy and regulation.

While a smaller gov't helps cut this kind of corruption, inherently, no matter what size government you have, if you allow companies or trade unions to give money to politicians they receive unique favors.

For example, maybe union members get a tax break. Or maybe Rep. Joe Blow who the union gave $100,000 proposes a measure to fine a company who does not negotiate with its union. Or maybe Joe Blow fights against laws which force employees to pay union dues.

On the flip side of the coin, what about the corporation. They pay $1M USD, and now Rep. Joe Blow looks to ban the union. Now Rep. Joe Blow looks to hand the company $20M USD in junk grants at taxpayers expense. Now Rep. Joe Blow lowers the company's effective tax rate to 5% while small to midsize businesses in his district are paying 35%.

Let me be clear. I support low taxes. I support a flat tax. What I do not support is companies who pay off politicians getting an unfair tax advantage. That's as bad as working poor who don't have to pay taxes, as welfare exploiters, as any other abusers on the flip side of the coin.

Each party villainizes the other side's tax abusers. Guess what? They're all bad. And both parties are to blame for taking bribes.
quote:
LOL you mean a system set up by rich white land owners? Our Government was founded on freedom, but equality? Sorry that's wrong.
While it's true the U.S. was founded by rich white men, they had a idealistic idea of promoting a true Republic in which people were ruled by honest representatives.

If you read the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin or other founding fathers you will recognize that.

True, they lived at a different time, at a time when slavery and other forms of barbarism were condoned. But ultimately, their idea was to form "a more perfect republic" not a system in which corporations and trade unions bribe their way laws or where citizens massively exploit the welfare system or other poorly managed programs.

Personally I think the Founding Fathers would be rather horrified at the monstrosity the federal government and its officials have become.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/29/2012 9:18:33 PM , Rating: 3
My beef with attempting to limit lobbying is that the devil's in the details. If 5 of us band together and call, write, tweet to our Congressman should that be illegal? What if that number is 500? 5,000? 500,000? I contend the answer to all of those is no, as that would be a limit on our freedom.

So what if we want to pool our resources and buy a radio ad or maybe a spot on a billboard to endorse a candidate? Or even a position on a particular issue? I see no reason to limit your and my right to express our views to our fellow citizens. If we do limit, where's the line? I think we'd all agree that my group of 5,000 like-minded citizens has the right to assemble at the steps of the Capitol to wave signs, hoot/holler, and voice our opinions. What's the fundamental difference between speaking and buying airtime? Or space in a newspaper, etc.

And if a group of like minded citizens can do that, why can't a corporation? A corporation is, by definition a group of like-minded individuals. Before someone jumps down my throat on this point, I will clarify that the only criteria I'm using is that they all have a vested interest in the company growing and making money. After all, that's a corporation's sole purpose for existence. And so limiting a corporation's ability to fight for itself is nothing more than limiting individuals' right to fight for themselves.

I contend that the issue isn't lobbying. Not at all. We *all* should have the rights to lobby our elected officials, and we should exercise that right. The issue is the size, scope, and power of the government. If we didn't tax everything, regulate everything, and subsidize everything it wouldn't matter if Solyndra wanted at $500M check from the Feds. The problem is that we've given the politicians an inch, and they take a mile. And the fools we are, we go back and give them another inch. We've been doing this for 200 years.

If you want to decrease corruption (you'll never eliminate it), vote out the people who keep abusing the power we've given them. Vote out the people who keep providing handouts to others with your money. Vote out people who continually expand the size/scope of government.

quote:
Personally I think the Founding Fathers would be rather horrified at the monstrosity the federal government and its officials have become.
Some of them, sure. But the debate between a big/small, or strong/weak central government is one we've been having from the beginning.


RE: This makes me sick
By 3DoubleD on 5/29/2012 10:16:55 PM , Rating: 2
I think you make some good points and it's refreshing (and rare) to read a well written perspective defending lobbying.

The only point I'd like to make is regarding your comparison of a corporation with a group of financially independent, politically-like-minded citizens. Primarily, the group of citizens are actively involved in the political action whereas the employees of the corporation are involuntarily involved by mere association with the place that pays them. Yes, the employees of the corporation would have a shared interest in the continued success of their company, but I don't think this justifies the corporation crusading political action in their names. To be perfectly fair, it should be up to the employees to build their own political action group, the same as any other group of concerned citizens, without the "unlimited" corporate funds.

In my opinion, it is the lack of direct involvement of the employees that makes corporate lobbying look like corporations are paying for laws. It is the CEO and Board of Directors saying "our stock value will go up if we pay less taxes, so lets invest half of what we'd pay in taxes towards lobbying/political campaigns and eliminate our taxes." The CEOs and big stock holders hugely benefit, and perhaps the rest of the employees see some minor benefit (maybe even some jobs were created), but were all the employees OK with their company evading taxes? Are they OK with other companies doing the same? Would the same action have been taken if the employees had taken action as group of citizens not financially sponsored by the corporation?

To be clear, I don't support ultra-high corporate tax rates, I think taxing the individual makes more sense in most cases. Also, if I could summarize the above, I think the voice of the many needs to finally be louder than the voice of the privileged few. As much as possible, big money needs to be taken out of politics, especially campaigning.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/29/2012 10:43:59 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the compliment. :)

I would offer one point to your reply, with respect to employees. Corporations don't represent the employees. They represent the shareholders. The shareholders are the owners, and they are the ones who are ultimately benefiting from any lobbying efforts. Certainly employees may also benefit. But jobs are a byproduct of the effort to generate a return on an investment. Generating a return on an investment is not a byproduct of providing jobs.

If an employee doesn't like that their employer lobbies for something, they make a value judgement. Is the employment worth the moral/value cost? The same judgment calls exist if your employer does anything that you don't agree with. Maybe they cover domestic partners on the health insurance, and you're vehemently anti-gay. Maybe your employer pollutes, or harvests fossil fuels and you're vehemently pro-environment. These all seem equivalent to me.

quote:
In my opinion, it is the lack of direct involvement of the employees that makes corporate lobbying look like corporations are paying for laws.
I don't think it looks like they're paying for laws. I think they are paying for laws. In the exact same way you would be paying for a law if you donated to Candidate X who pledges to pass Bill Y.

quote:
Also, if I could summarize the above, I think the voice of the many needs to finally be louder than the voice of the privileged few.
I believe the voice of the many is infinitely louder today. Unfortunately that voice is all to often left unspoken.

quote:
As much as possible, big money needs to be taken out of politics, especially campaigning.
I'd be more inclined to allow unlimited money, with 100% disclosure. If Candidate Z is John Doe's puppet, that's fine by me as long as the voters know they're voting for John Doe's agenda and Candidate Z's face.


RE: This makes me sick
By 3DoubleD on 5/30/2012 9:29:01 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
If an employee doesn't like that their employer lobbies for something, they make a value judgement. Is the employment worth the moral/value cost?


I think this is true in an ideal world where one could quit an start a new job without financial penalty, but few people are willing to risk their family's financial well-being. The barrier to opposing your employer's lobbying efforts (eg. leaving your job) is currently much higher than it would in an alternate system where only independent citizens could lobby on behalf of an industry (eg. volunteering outside of work).

quote:
I believe the voice of the many is infinitely louder today. Unfortunately that voice is all to often left unspoken.


I'd say the voice of the masses can be louder when enough injustice or wrong has been done. Unfortunately, smaller injustices and missteps are taken every day. All citizens cannot protest as a profession. It is easy for wealthy entities to make these small changes through lobbying and extremely difficult for the masses to fight them. Only when these small changes build to a point where we have a crisis on our hands do the everyday people react. This is the unorganized, "have a day job and a family" masses vs. highly paid political lobbyists with their hands in every politician's pocket. It's an unfair fight that and the people are losing badly these days.

quote:
I'd be more inclined to allow unlimited money, with 100% disclosure. If Candidate Z is John Doe's puppet, that's fine by me as long as the voters know they're voting for John Doe's agenda and Candidate Z's face.


Theoretically that is a sound idea, but I would much rather contributions be limited to reasonable amount ($500-$1000) and the temptation removed altogether. The issue of addressing this issue by reaction and not in a proactive manner is that elections simply don't occur very often. When they do happen, the choices are limited and people vote based on a number of issues, not just based on the politicians payroll. This is especially true in America where a large population blindly associate themselves as Republican or Democrat regardless of the candidate. Also, I have little faith that every voter would bother to educate themselves in regards to the funding sources of their favorite politician.

I'd rather see funding operate more like voting. Give every citizen a $100 income tax credit if they donate $100 to a political campaign of their choice. That's potentially >$10B of campaign funding (more than enough) and the politicians will be directed by the people. Also, most people would agree it is a good use of their tax dollars since they get to choose how to spend it.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/30/2012 9:53:09 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think this is true in an ideal world where one could quit an start a new job without financial penalty, but few people are willing to risk their family's financial well-being. The barrier to opposing your employer's lobbying efforts (eg. leaving your job) is currently much higher than it would in an alternate system where only independent citizens could lobby on behalf of an industry (eg. volunteering outside of work).
I don't dispute that a barrier is present, but I don't see how it is any different than any other employer action you may disagree with. At some point you have to either suck it up for the time being, or get a new job.

quote:
This is the unorganized, "have a day job and a family" masses vs. highly paid political lobbyists with their hands in every politician's pocket. It's an unfair fight that and the people are losing badly these days.
I don't expect citizens to protest as a profession. I keep coming back to the same point. The only reason lobbying works, and the only reason citizens would need to protest in the first place is because the government has too much power and too much control. The fight is fair, but the masses either don't actually care enough to do anything about it, or are too distracted by the symptoms to see the actual problem.

quote:
Theoretically that is a sound idea, but I would much rather contributions be limited to reasonable amount ($500-$1000) and the temptation removed altogether.
And I'd say at first pass that sounds reasonable. Except I come back to freedom. If you have $5000, and I use the power of government for force where you cannot spend it, I've just limited your freedoms.

quote:
I'd rather see funding operate more like voting. Give every citizen a $100 income tax credit if they donate $100 to a political campaign of their choice.
I agree with the sentiment here, but I again think you're missing the forest for the trees. Limiting the donation amount to $100 is a freedom-limiting action. Collecting taxes based on income is as well. And then we're punishing those who may not want to donate money (for whatever reason, legitimate or otherwise). We're using the tax code to pick winners and losers, something it already does far too often.


RE: This makes me sick
By 3DoubleD on 5/30/2012 5:16:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't dispute that a barrier is present, but I don't see how it is any different than any other employer action you may disagree with. At some point you have to either suck it up for the time being, or get a new job.


My point here is that the power is with the wrong people... the lawyers, the corporation's lobbyists, and the board of directors. The action should be on the people, the employees. It should be independent of corporate money and influence, which may or may not be form a domestic source.

quote:
The only reason lobbying works, and the only reason citizens would need to protest in the first place is because the government has too much power and too much control.


Yes, decrease the size and power of government, but you can also reduce/eliminate corporate lobbying. They are not mutually exclusive. I'd be happy to see both happen simultaneously.

quote:
The fight is fair...


It really isn't. There is an army of full time, well funded lobbyists whispering in the ears of every politician they can find. Who is representing the people? Not the lobbyists and not the politicians once they've accepted all of their contributions. They might worry about not getting elected again but then they can just pay for more ads to smear their competitors image with.

quote:
If you have $5000, and I use the power of government for force where you cannot spend it, I've just limited your freedoms.


But if we do nothing, all we have is this false sense of political freedom. As it stands today, the people are not running this country. When politicians spend up to 70% of their time fundraising, who are they thinking about when they are debating, writing, and passing laws? Does it really matter who you voted for if they are already bought and paid for?

Furthermore, wealthy people or corporations will still be able to reach people through the media to do their bidding as they always have. Their free speech rights still exist. A limit on political contributions is merely a limit on legalized bribery - unless you think bribery is a legitimate form of free speech (and unfortunately it seems the Supreme Court ruled it as such). People/corporations are free to spend their money on propaganda ladled TV, radio, and newspapers. If they can convince the people to fight for their cause, then good for them. That should be the extent of free speech that money can buy.

So by limiting contributions maybe some people lose their "freedom" to individually dictate government policy, but that is a small price to pay to ensure the entire system isn't a farce. A government that has the people's interest in mind any less than 100% of the time is unsatisfactory and is by far the larger compromise to our freedoms.

quote:
Limiting the donation amount to $100 is a freedom-limiting action.


Sorry, I wasn't clear. I didn't mean that they should limit to $100, I mean they when you give a political donation, you get a tax credit on your income tax for that year. This encourages good citizens (the one's that pay their taxes) to participate financially in politics. It treats everyone equally (regardless of income, so long as you pay taxes); however, I still think total contributions should be limited by my reasoning above.


RE: This makes me sick
By AppleMaggot on 5/30/2012 5:37:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
People/corporations are free to spend their money on propaganda ladled TV, radio, and newspapers. If they can convince the people to fight for their cause, then good for them. That should be the extent of free speech that money can buy.


Wait... I thought this was essentially the thrust of what the Supreme Court said. That is to say a person or corp can spend all the money they want on political propaganda as long as it's not directly affiliated with or coordinated by any specific political campaign.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/30/2012 6:01:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
My point here is that the power is with the wrong people... the lawyers, the corporation's lobbyists, and the board of directors. The action should be on the people, the employees. It should be independent of corporate money and influence, which may or may not be form a domestic source.
I could not disagree more. The power to lobby on a corporation's behalf lies squarely where it should - in the hands of the shareholders. Individuals, whether shareholder or not, also have the power to donate their private funds, or their own time.
quote:
Yes, decrease the size and power of government, but you can also reduce/eliminate corporate lobbying. They are not mutually exclusive. I'd be happy to see both happen simultaneously.
True they aren't mutually exclusive, but one makes the other an exercise in futility. If you reduce the size/power of the government, it makes corporate lobbying irrelevant. Why would you or I care if Apple wants Congressman XYZ in his pocket, when XYZ doesn't actually have the power to do anything that would benefit Apple?
quote:
It really isn't. There is an army of full time, well funded lobbyists whispering in the ears of every politician they can find. Who is representing the people? Not the lobbyists and not the politicians once they've accepted all of their contributions.
The politicians are still elected by us. If their actions are undesired by their constituents, they will be voted out. It appalls me that more people are not outraged by the state of affairs in our government, but to claim that the people are being "held down" by lobbyists, or that they have no representation is bunk. We hold the power. We decide who's in office, and what authority they have. But collectively, we're content with the status quo. It sucks, I agree, but it isn't due to some corporate boogey man. It's our complacence.
quote:
A limit on political contributions is merely a limit on legalized bribery - unless you think bribery is a legitimate form of free speech (and unfortunately it seems the Supreme Court ruled it as such).
I reject the premise that campaign contributions are bribery. Giving an individual money (or some other benefit) for a vote on legislation, would be bribery. Giving his campaign money, is not. Campaign money doesn't get you elected. Votes do. And I still place the onus of responsibility on the voters.
quote:
People/corporations are free to spend their money on propaganda ladled TV, radio, and newspapers. If they can convince the people to fight for their cause, then good for them. That should be the extent of free speech that money can buy.
How is that any different than giving the money to a campaign or a PAC?
quote:
So by limiting contributions maybe some people lose their "freedom" to individually dictate government policy
No individual is dictating government policy! Come on now.
quote:
Sorry, I wasn't clear. I didn't mean that they should limit to $100, I mean they when you give a political donation, you get a tax credit on your income tax for that year.
Even so, it's still the wrong solution to the wrong problem for the reasons I listed above.


RE: This makes me sick
By 3DoubleD on 5/31/2012 9:51:11 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The power to lobby on a corporation's behalf lies squarely where it should - in the hands of the shareholders.


Yes, this is who would want to lobby the government for favorable policy changes, but it is not necessarily the correct people. The shareholders could be anyone. It could be 49% one person, it could be 100% international ownership. Who are these people to influence federal policy? Are their intentions for the increased prosperity of the nation?

Citizens (eg real people, not corporations) have a shared desire to make their country a better place. Obviously, not everyone agrees on how. Corporations do not share the same motivations, all they care about is profit margins, which is great for capitalism and the market, but, IMO, terrible for government policy.

Shareholders, CEOs, board of directors, ect. while individually are people (who may or may not be citizens), are not acting with the same well-meaning, duty-fill, patriotic motivations that you or I would have when discussing politics. IMO, that is a dangerous influence to allow when making policy.

quote:
If you reduce the size/power of the government, it makes corporate lobbying irrelevant.


I'm sorry, but a government small enough such that corporate lobbying wouldn't exist sounds like a fantasy. You'd need to turn the country into a bunch of loosely bound (maybe affiliated is a better word) states. It is hard to believe the current Federal government could undergo such a rapid transition in our lifetimes.

To put this into a terrible analogy: I'm an engineer. When you solve a problem you look for a physically possible and accessible solution. For example, if I need to get into orbit, I build a rocket. I don't try to turn off gravity and float there. Maybe one day I'll build an anti-gravity lift, but the road there will be long and it isn't certain to be a success. I can work on the anti-gravity lift and the rocket at the same time and reach the end goal the same.

Anyway, back to reality, haha. I'm all in support for small government, but the limit of small government is just a bunch of completely independent states which would be untenable as a unified country. There has to be an intermediate state between big and no federal government. In that intermediate state, corporate lobbying will always exist, it will never go away. Yes, it's a symptom of the problem of political power, but it's akin to saying the requirement of oxygen is a symptom of our respiratory system. We need to breathe as much as we need some centralized federal power.

I say, tackle the issue from both sides. Re-taking and restoring faith in our political system is what we stand to gain.

quote:
How is that any different than giving the money to a campaign or a PAC?


Sorry, I was mistaken here. Not sure what I was thinking at the time, but I had these two topics of lobbying, campaign contributions, and PACs all mixed up when I wrote that, clearly needed more coffee.

quote:
No individual is dictating government policy! Come on now.


It is conceivable that with the current system, a wealthy individual or a small group of wealthy individuals could influence the system with enough lobbying force (eg. money). They could (and probably would) be sitting behind a corporate logo. The distinction would be hard to make, but it is certainly very possible.

quote:
I reject the premise that campaign contributions are bribery


If giving large sums of money to campaigns isn't bribery, then I propose all large sums are donated into a black box, of which, the money is randomly distributed to the recipient over time. The donation can be removed at anytime during the campaign by the donor. With this system, a donor could walk to the black box with the recipient, drop the money in, and the recipient would have no idea if the money was actually given or not since it could easily be removed.

Such a system was tried in Florida, I believe for the election of some judges/justices. NO contributions were given. Large political contributions are like white lies, they may seem innocent, but they are still lies.

It's been a great conversation, you've given me lots to think about. Don't let me opposition to all of your ideas fool you, you've got my mind thinking harder about this and have helped broaden my views. Change comes with time ;) . Cheers.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/31/2012 4:51:15 PM , Rating: 2
Until next time! :)


RE: This makes me sick
By Reclaimer77 on 5/29/2012 11:07:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I contend that the issue isn't lobbying. Not at all. We *all* should have the rights to lobby our elected officials, and we should exercise that right. The issue is the size, scope, and power of the government. If we didn't tax everything, regulate everything, and subsidize everything it wouldn't matter if Solyndra wanted at $500M check from the Feds. The problem is that we've given the politicians an inch, and they take a mile. And the fools we are, we go back and give them another inch. We've been doing this for 200 years.

If you want to decrease corruption (you'll never eliminate it), vote out the people who keep abusing the power we've given them. Vote out the people who keep providing handouts to others with your money. Vote out people who continually expand the size/scope of government.


Bingo. People keep falling for the progressive shell game of demonizing lobbying and big corporations, while in the meantime grossly ballooning the size, power, and debt of the Government. And they actually support this tactic!

Because of simple economic scaling, the larger the Government the larger the lobbying. Also the more centralized a Government, the easier to influence. It's a lot easier to lobby a Senator or two than 50 separate State legislatures or thousands of townships isn't it?

But no, people like Mick and Obama will just hammer the private sector, hammer Capitalism, and hammer Corporations while offering us a fix that's more of the problem. A big fat Government cure for everything.


RE: This makes me sick
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/29/2012 11:39:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Bingo. People keep falling for the progressive shell game of demonizing lobbying and big corporations, while in the meantime grossly ballooning the size, power, and debt of the Government. And they actually support this tactic!

Because of simple economic scaling, the larger the Government the larger the lobbying. Also the more centralized a Government, the easier to influence. It's a lot easier to lobby a Senator or two than 50 separate State legislatures or thousands of townships isn't it?

But no, people like Mick and Obama will just hammer the private sector, hammer Capitalism, and hammer Corporations while offering us a fix that's more of the problem. A big fat Government cure for everything.
Whoa deep breathes, please do not compare me to Obama or suggest our ideology is similar.

Obama is a huge supporter of corporate pork and lobbying. He accepted a record $800M USD in contributions, roughly 50 percent from large donors -- PACs (unions, corporations) and directly corporate donations.

Obama has never voiced support for a flat tax, which a central belief of mine.

He supports large payouts to nations at least mildly hostile to the U.S. like Pakistan and Afghanistan. I do not.

We differ greatly on fiscal policy. I'm a progressive fiscal liberal in that I feel the current system is broken, but fiscal conservativism is the answer. That means reducing government, cutting cronyism (e.g. lobbying), and reducing supports fraud. All of those are necessary, not just the one or two that fit your party's talking points.

Neither party follows a truly fiscally conservative approach that hits on all three points and neither party has expressed much interest in progressive fiscal conservativism (e.g. a flat tax), other than a handful of free thinkers like Ron Paul who are ridiculed by their party-mates.

The problem is that Democrats demonize corporations and the military industrial complex, while Republicans demonize support abusers (e.g. food stamp fraud). Both sides (Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street) have a small contingent that have denounced big government. But either side has generally only been willing to trim the parts of big government that they don't like -- not commit to across the board cuts.

It's like each side has identified part of the problem, but cumulatively have resolved to do nothing.

I may criticize the destructive effect on small to midsize businesses and individual taxpayers of corporate lobbying, but I'm also equally stern on supports fraud and the government playing "green" venture capitalist on cockamamie alternative energy and "carbon capture" schemes.

In short neither party would be much of a fan of my opinions, and I'm not much of a fan of either of them by an large.

My collectivist ideals mixed with my general fiscal conservatism and social liberalism place me closest to either being a Libertarian or a Socialist, depending on what parts of my opinions you choose to look at.


RE: This makes me sick
By Reclaimer77 on 5/30/12, Rating: 0
RE: This makes me sick
By ritualm on 5/30/2012 3:59:53 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Jason all you do is hammer Capitalism. What am I to think? You write articles demonizing companies for not paying as much taxes as possible, even though it's legal. You classify lobbying as bribery and accuse the "rich" of forming a shadow Government that runs the country. I mean I'm not trying to offend you, but I see some serious parallels here in the rhetoric.

On this issue what's so dangerous is that you've removed all personal accountability from the politicians, those who took an oath to the Constitution and country, and framed the argument so that the Corporations are solely at fault. And this is a theme you reinforce over and over and over again.

That's rich.

Companies are getting away with paying as few in taxes as possible because of loopholes in the tax systems, and because they have funded entire lobbies to protect those loopholes from getting plugged. Inevitably, because these companies pay as little taxes as required by law, the rest of us end up paying more than we should.

In other words, those loopholes are illegal and shouldn't be there in the first place. Corporate lobbying should be made illegal.

Personal accountability what? Politicians are bought and sold to the highest bidder. There are no true fiscal-conservative politicians anymore, just clowns pretending to present themselves as one during election year. They did take an oath swearing to protect the Constitution, did any one of them walk the talk? Nope. They are in no danger of a recall unless they get themselves mired neck-deep in sex/corruption scandals, why should they care what you think?


RE: This makes me sick
By BluntForceTrama on 5/30/2012 9:16:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Whoa deep breathes, please do not compare me to Obama or suggest our ideology is similar.

Why would you make such a request, knowing full well that the choices he allows himself is you are in total agreement with what he says or you're categorized (dismissed actually) as being in total disagreement?

But perhaps the more important question is why you constantly pander to him? It's really quite beneath you.


RE: This makes me sick
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/29/2012 11:27:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
My beef with attempting to limit lobbying is that the devil's in the details. If 5 of us band together and call, write, tweet to our Congressman should that be illegal? What if that number is 500? 5,000? 500,000? I contend the answer to all of those is no, as that would be a limit on our freedom.

So what if we want to pool our resources and buy a radio ad or maybe a spot on a billboard to endorse a candidate? Or even a position on a particular issue? I see no reason to limit your and my right to express our views to our fellow citizens. If we do limit, where's the line? I think we'd all agree that my group of 5,000 like-minded citizens has the right to assemble at the steps of the Capitol to wave signs, hoot/holler, and voice our opinions. What's the fundamental difference between speaking and buying airtime? Or space in a newspaper, etc.
I agree with your assessment that the devil is in the details, however, if you read carefully I never suggested any number of INDIVIDUAL contributions should be disallowed. I merely suggested that any trade union or company should not be allowed to contribute or form PACs. If citizens want to band together and give individual contributions, that's fine.

To an extent such contributions could have a similar effect to traditional lobbying, but they're actually true free speech (one's individual opinion) versus someone else telling you what to say (the union, the company).
quote:
And if a group of like minded citizens can do that, why can't a corporation? A corporation is, by definition a group of like-minded individuals. Before someone jumps down my throat on this point, I will clarify that the only criteria I'm using is that they all have a vested interest in the company growing and making money. After all, that's a corporation's sole purpose for existence. And so limiting a corporation's ability to fight for itself is nothing more than limiting individuals' right to fight for themselves.
An interesting debate, but I feel that voting and political funding should require individual participation versus group decision making.

It's a similar argument to whether "right to work" laws are unfair. Many union leaders will tell you that they are because everyone would quit the union if they didn't have to pay their dues. Well that basically tells you something about the union or the intelligence of its members. If the union is really offering such wondrous benefits, members would pay the dues even if they were not required if they had half a brain.

Likewise, there's no need for "like-minded individuals" within a corporation to pool funding to advertise for a candidate. If these individuals really believed in what the company says they do, they would simply individually contribute.

Individual contributions are terribly simple... just pull your credit card out, spend one minute choosing your amount, print the form to take to your tax person. It's not rocket science and to claim that pooling is necessary to get people to contribute is silly in my opinion.
quote:
If you want to decrease corruption (you'll never eliminate it), vote out the people who keep abusing the power we've given them. Vote out the people who keep providing handouts to others with your money. Vote out people who continually expand the size/scope of government.
Kind of hard when corruption breeds profits, corporations are designed to maximize profits and corporations are controlling federal policy via lobbying. That's a closed loop.

Federal officials are elected, in most cases, by the amount of ad-time/media-coverage they receive, which in turn is a reflection on the amount of pork they give out.

It is possible to break such a grip, but the issue is that when both candidates from the two "ruling parties" are accepting cash for pork, it's very hard to organize grassroots support for an honest third party candidate (trust me, I've tried).


RE: This makes me sick
By Reclaimer77 on 5/29/12, Rating: 0
RE: This makes me sick
By ritualm on 5/30/2012 4:06:15 AM , Rating: 1
Because corporations and trade unions are currently treated as "people" even though they are not. As soon as you let them do any kind of lobbying, all bets are off.

Corporations have more power than the government, does that not make you worry? They are the main reason we keep trying to fend off SOPA every year.

Your lopsided illogical idiocy is showing in flying colors.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/30/2012 9:55:26 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Corporations have more power than the government

quote:
Your lopsided illogical idiocy is showing in flying colors.

So are you the pot, or the kettle?


RE: This makes me sick
By BluntForceTrama on 5/30/2012 1:39:09 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently you live on a different planet then the rest of us, because his evaluation is correct.


RE: This makes me sick
By Initium on 5/31/2012 11:35:28 AM , Rating: 2
Case in point. Samsung brings in 40% of Korea's foreign income. The government of Korea cannot afford to let Samsung fail. A perfect example of "too big to fail". Do you really think there is a single courageous politician in Korea who would dare to challenge Samsung? Do you think the President of Korea would keep the Chairman of Samsung waiting on the phone? Lee Kun Hee is not somebody to be trifled with. Despite walking out on talks to end the patent war not even Tim Cooke would dare to keep Lee Kun Hee waiting on the line.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/30/2012 10:13:43 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
[...]I never suggested any number of INDIVIDUAL contributions should be disallowed. I merely suggested that any trade union or company should not be allowed to contribute or form PACs. If citizens want to band together and give individual contributions, that's fine.
I was making the point (though it took me a while to get there) that corporations and unions are nothing more than groups of individuals, and thus I see no reason to place limits on them.

quote:
An interesting debate, but I feel that voting and political funding should require individual participation versus group decision making.
But they do require individual participation. Individuals walk into the voting booths and cast their ballots. Individuals purchase stocks, or start companies. Individuals choose when to sell those stocks. And individuals cast ballots in shareholder votes.

quote:
Likewise, there's no need for "like-minded individuals" within a corporation to pool funding to advertise for a candidate. If these individuals really believed in what the company says they do, they would simply individually contribute. [...] to claim that pooling is necessary to get people to contribute is silly in my opinion.
I never claimed there was a "need" for them to pool funding. I just don't see the distinction between a group of people that own a company, and a group of people that don't. It's still a group of people. And limiting the expression of either group is just that, limiting their freedom of expression.

quote:
Kind of hard when corruption breeds profits, corporations are designed to maximize profits and corporations are controlling federal policy via lobbying. That's a closed loop.
Corporations do not control federal policy. The influence it, sure. But WalMart doesn't get to cast a ballot worth 5M "peon" votes. The people still pick, and so far, the people keep voting for politicians who will use the power of force to take from some and give to others. We need to demand something else.

quote:
Federal officials are elected, in most cases, by the amount of ad-time/media-coverage they receive, which in turn is a reflection on the amount of pork they give out.
I'm starting to feel like I'm beating a dead horse here. What you describe may have some correlation, but ultimately the responsibility falls on the voters.

quote:
It is possible to break such a grip, but the issue is that when both candidates from the two "ruling parties" are accepting cash for pork, it's very hard to organize grassroots support for an honest third party candidate (trust me, I've tried).
Hey man, I'm right there with you. This two party system is atrocious. And it'll take a while to actually change that (short of some catastrophe like US gov't default, or a total collapse of our economy, or the collapse of the US dollar). So we have a long hard fight ahead, but that doesn't mean we should stifle others' freedom to achieve our goals.


RE: This makes me sick
By Initium on 5/31/2012 11:20:31 AM , Rating: 2
A well argued position. Unfortunately it is based upon a misunderstanding. Lobbying is not representation. Politicians are elected to represent the constituents who elected them not the companies that lobby them. But that is the reality. A reality which has been repeated time and again thought history by every government in every country. The French Revolution is a prime example of a government that did exactly this albeit without free and fair elections to legitimize its rule. The USA was built on principles intended to prevent this from happening again. Guess what? Money won and principles lost.

Perhaps the best example of this was Rome. Known throughout the known (then) world as the great whore, the Senate of Rome would get into bed with anybody who had the money to pay. Is the US Congress any different? When the elected government fails to act on behalf of and in the best interests of those who elected it where is the legitimacy of its right to govern? Does anybody truly believe the US Congress acts in the best interests of those who elected it? Seriously.

Ask 10 American citizens if their government acts in their best interests and a majority will tell you no. Ask 100 and the majority remains consistent. Ask a 1000, ask a million, ask all of them and the majority will remain. Worst of all it does not matter if the government is Republican or Democrat the majority remains the same. What does that tell you? Americans rail against their own governments because in truth they know deep down the system is broken. Democracy no longer works to provide equal representation to the citizens who vote.

Lobbying is a modern rendition of an age old plague on government. Those with money getting preferential treatment to the detriment of those who actually own the right of representation. It is not an American creation or a particularly American problem. It is universal and timeless. And most importantly it is the cause of the downfall of every government and government system. Can anybody seriously claim that the USA is functioning as it was intended and ought to be? Lobbying is a symptom of the decay of the system. It is not the root cause.


RE: This makes me sick
By ebakke on 5/31/2012 5:00:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
A well argued position. Unfortunately it is based upon a misunderstanding. Lobbying is not representation.
Sure it is. Representation isn't getting everything you asked for. It's having your voice heard. At least in a republic, anyway. And that's exactly what lobbying does - it gets your voice heard.
quote:
Politicians are elected to represent the constituents who elected them not the companies that lobby them.
Right. And if your representative doesn't act in a way that matches your values, you get to vote them out. Or run for office yourself.
quote:
Can anybody seriously claim that the USA is functioning as it was intended and ought to be? Lobbying is a symptom of the decay of the system. It is not the root cause.
Which is exactly what I've been arguing in this thread. The problem is that lobbying for everything under the sun is effective. That is, that the government has too much power.


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