backtop


Print 25 comment(s) - last by purerice.. on Oct 25 at 12:59 PM


  (Source: Occupy Austin)
Paying off America's corrupt politicians beats any (legal) investment in the world with a 220-to-1 ROI

Today in the U.S. cash is king and nowhere is that more true then in Washington D.C.  Spend a dollar on bonds and you get roughly 5 cents back over the course of a year.  Spend that same dollar on stocks and you get roughly ten cents back for a year, on average [source].  But spend that same dollar on paying off a federal politician, and you receive an estimated $220 USD, on average, according to peer-reviewed study by Raquel Alexander and Susan Scholz of the University of Kansas School of Business.  

I. Pay to Play

Whichever viewpoint they choose to hold, tech companies appear well aware of this reality.

In Q3 2013 lobbying expenditures of top tech firms continued to rise.  On average, among top tech firms, lobbying rose 24 percent, and the eleven largest lobbying companies in the pure tech industry (i.e. not including defense contractors like Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) or industrial firms like General Electric Comp. (GE)) spent close to $24.5M USD in Q3 2013.

The dirty almost dozen (11) (with change versus Q3 2012 listed), according to federal data analyzed by Consumer Watchdog were:
  1. AT&T Inc. (T)                               -- ~$4,300,000 USD -- (up 23 percent)

    AT&T
                                           [Image Source: BGR]
     
  2. Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) -- ~$4,204,000 USD -- (up 1 percent) *

    Verizon Store
                                           [Image Source: Hot Cell Phones]
     
  3. Google Inc. (GOOG)                     -- ~$4,200,000 USD -- (down 21 percent)

    Google
     
  4. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)                  -- ~$2,200,000 USD -- (up 20 percent)

    Microsoft gold sign
                                          [Image Source: BGR]
     
  5. Facebook Inc. (FB)                        -- ~$1,400,000 USD -- (up 47 percent)

    Facebook
                                          [Image Source: The Guardian]
     
  6. Oracle Corp. (ORCL)                      -- ~$1,360,000 USD -- (down 4 percent)

    Oracle building
                                          [Image Source: Reuters]
     
  7. Int'l Business Machines Corp. (IBM) -- ~$1,180,000 USD -- (up 16 percent)

    IBM sign
                                          [Image Source: Andrew Havis]
     
  8. Intel Corp. (INTC)                         --   ~$980,000 USD -- (up 12 percent)

    Intel sign
                                          [Image Source: etechmag]
     
  9. Apple, Inc. (AAPL)                          --   ~$970,000 USD -- (up 111 percent)

    Apple
     
  10. Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO)           --    ~$890,000 USD -- (up 17 percent)Cisco logo

     
  11. Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)              --   ~$780,000 USD -- (up 42 percent)

    Amazon
                                          [Image Source: AP]
* including Verizon Wireless, which is now solely owned by Verizon Communications

Rent to Damn High
"This is politics as usual, playing the silly game." -- Jimmy McMillan [Image Source: AP]

II. The Hand Giveth

Companies lobbied for a variety of reasons -- many of which seem to be matters of blatant federal corruption.

Some larger companies lobbied to dissuade lawmakers from pursuing antitrust actions -- especially in cases where their actions could be construed as stomping on smaller competitors and abusing a dominant position.  This is thought to be why Google's lobbying reached record levels in 2012.  Incidentally in the U.S. Google got off with a relative slap on the wrist for supposed antitrust violations.

Payroll tax cut
Lobbying helps corporations cash in with record profits. [Image Source: CNBC]

Another major reason to lobby is to gain special tax loopholes, which can be written in as line items on miscellaneous legislation or as part of a more general tax policy.   Donations can also help convince lawmakers to overlook sheltering profits in low-tax countries like Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Caribbean.  Google, Apple, Facebook, and others have all suffered from accusations of tax dodging both via their actions in the U.S. and via sheltering assets overseas.

GE -- not on the list as it's not considered a "pure tech company" -- is the poster child of such efforts receiving $3.2B USD out of the pockets of U.S. taxpayers in 2011, while paying no tax on the $14.2B USD it made in pure profit.

Another common reason is to lobby to try to increase a company's chance of scoring federal contracts.  Oracle, IBM, Cisco, and Amazon, have all scored major contracts supplying equipment for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and various other federal agencies.  They're also suspected of receiving billions in contracts from the intelligence community, which spends a lot of that money to spy on the American taxpayer.  The best information on those accounts comes from various leaks, as the government typically does not disclose finer details of intelligence spending.

Congress bribes
Congress today is a vehicle driven by lobbyists. [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

The problematic part is that it's impossible to characterize tech industry lobbying as solely evil, as it often is used to promote corporate causes that seem on some level to benefit consumers.  Part of the money spent by companies like Google, Verizon, and AT&T's is to promote special interest viewpoints that benefit the consumer -- such as opening up unused wireless spectrum, promoting greater internet freedom, or fighting patent trolling.

Of course this "benefit" is a somewhat artificial one.  In a utopian government, federal politicians would already consult technical expertise in the private sector before passing any sort of legislation that affects the tech industry, and decisions would be made with the intent of maximizing benefits for the consumer.  Lobbying's "benefits" with respect to technology firms stem solely from the fact that federal politicians are often ignorant of technical realtiesuncaring of consumer freedoms, and also paid by malicious smaller special interests.

III. Twitter is Among the Only Tech Firms to Lobby Transparently

While lobbying at best can thus be used as a flawed art, one company at least showcased a praise-worthy system in Q3 -- Twitter.  Ahead of its upcoming initial public offering (IPO) Twitter spent $40,000 USD on lobbying this last quarter.  But unlikely nearly every other tech company, it actually filed a clear and succinct accounting of its lobbyist spending in its mandatory federal filing, which most companies just fill with boilerplate nonsense.

Among the bills or efforts it said it spent money promoting:
Among the efforts it spent money to fight or reform were:
General Electric
[Image Source: Mashable]

In other words, Twitter has released what amounts to strong evidence that its spending has mirrored spending by civil liberties groups.  This contrasts with other firms that leave their spending reason a mystery in their federal filings.  More often than not that shroud of secrecy is designed to obfuscate the fact that lobbying is today putting record amounts of money in the pockets of these firms, while slowly function to erode America's middle class.

Again, it's unfortunate Twitter had to spend this money in the first place -- as if the government's goal was to benefit its citizens, it would probably have taken all the positions Twitter had.  But in America, Americans' prosperity and freedoms often come last on the agenda of federal politicians, far behind the hungry and ever-growing pack of special interests.

Source: Consumer Watchdog



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Debauchery
By Motoman on 10/24/2013 11:30:53 AM , Rating: 5
I believe I've mentioned once or twice before that all lobbying should be illegal. It only serves the interests of corporations and special interest groups with obscene amounts of money to spend.

Make it illegal, and then citizens will have as much access to the political process as corporations and special interests. And without the graft that comes with lobbying, you might even get politicians who start doing the right thing...instead of the thing that makes them the most money.

Which, by the way, brings us to the point that we also need to destroy the concept that corporations are somehow "people" and therefore can give unlimited amounts of money to politicians to buy their votes. Only individual citizens should be able to donate to a campaign, and only to the campaign itself (not to the politician directly, or for any purpose other than the campaign). There's also a necessity to place a firm cap on such donations - like maybe $1,000, so that the ultra-rich can't simply buy a candidate by donating a few million bucks to them.

Further, we need to unstrangle our government by eliminating political parties and all the special priveleged positions that we give them in our political establishments, like Majority <this> and Minority <that>. There should be no indication on ballots as to any kind of party for candidates - just list their name...in this way, voters will have to actually pay attention to the candidates based on their individual platforms, and become informed about the people they're voting for, instead of blindly voting one party or the other, either because they're stupid enough to believe that's a good idea, or because they're too lazy or too apathetic to pay attention on their own.

With no lobbying, no graft, and no parties pulling the strings, we might actually have a chance at building a government run by people who actually *care* about the people of this country, and who are actually driven to do the *right* thing...not the thing that gets them the most money now, or the best job later.




RE: Debauchery
By Dr of crap on 10/24/2013 12:24:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yep - Agree with all your points !!!!

But, LMFAO in what world will THAT happen??? Never, never here in our "great country".

Our political system is SOOooooo screwed up, it can only get worse form here!


RE: Debauchery
By Kiffberet on 10/25/2013 7:49:07 AM , Rating: 2
That's the biggest problem with democracy - people who don't agree with you are allowed to vote.


RE: Debauchery
By degobah77 on 10/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: Debauchery
By Camikazi on 10/24/2013 4:28:51 PM , Rating: 2
Sad to say but IQ has nothing to do with making a right political choice since zealotry is very much shown in high IQ people as well as low IQ. Just because you have a high IQ does not mean you will make the right decision, it just means you can most likely analyse the decision better (that doesn't mean you will do the right thing).


RE: Debauchery
By Kiffberet on 10/25/2013 7:54:59 AM , Rating: 2

And if they set the minimum level as your IQ, then only you and a handful of geniuses would be allowed to vote.

;-)


RE: Debauchery
By jimbojimbo on 10/24/2013 12:50:35 PM , Rating: 2
Although I agree with you to completely ban lobbyist bribes the sad part is they'll just do something else like someone else posted. They'll give away a house to a relative or hire relatives with unbelievable salaries to do nothing.
They need to make anything like this completely illegal and call it what it is, bribes. I don't understand how it's illegal but then again Congress seems to pass any laws they want that benefits them and hide them in much larger bills saying how important it is to approve the bill all the while knowing that articles that would benefit them hide within them. Sickening.


RE: Debauchery
By Motoman on 10/24/2013 1:27:16 PM , Rating: 3
That's it exactly. You have to make any kind of graft illegal...including giving a fake job to the candidate's sister-in-law.

We have to craft a system in which the *only* compensation that a lawmaker gets is their official salary, and in which no one has any more sway over a politician than any given individual citizen.

Then and only then can you expect things to get better.


RE: Debauchery
By syslog2000 on 10/24/2013 12:59:20 PM , Rating: 3
Motoman, if lobbying was made illegal it would not stop it. It would just move completely under the covers. That would be worse. Corrupt politicians would ask for and get more money and would hand out more favors.


RE: Debauchery
By Motoman on 10/24/2013 1:17:28 PM , Rating: 5
Perhaps...but at least then it would be illegal, and you'd stand a chance of convicting them and sending them to jail. As it is now...it's perfectly legal, so you're guaranteed to get corrupt politicians.

If it's illegal...at least you stand a chance of getting honest politicians.


RE: Debauchery
By Dr of crap on 10/24/2013 2:58:38 PM , Rating: 3
Again I agree -
But honest politicians???? That is the best joke YET!

So there was these three honest politicians walking into a bar....


RE: Debauchery
By Motoman on 10/24/2013 9:57:50 PM , Rating: 1
If there was no way for them to be dishonest...you wouldn't attract dishonest people. At least, not after the remaining dishonest ones were all in jail.

We're full of terrible politicians because the system encourages them to be terrible. Create a system in which there is no opportunity for them to be crooked, and then none of them can be crooked.


RE: Debauchery
By TSS on 10/24/2013 10:43:36 PM , Rating: 3
You're full of corrupt politicians because the people keep voting the same people in over and over again.

8 years of george w. bush who was mocked by the entire world and then 8 years obama who's done even worse. And yet STILL, the next president is going to be a republican or a democrat.

Wether the system is corrupt or not doesn't matter. It's the people who are keeping the system as is.

Afterall just *think* about what you just said. "the system encourages them to be corrupt". Fine, agreed. Now for the solution: Who are you going to ask to change that system? Who would need to pass the laws to outlaw lobbying?


RE: Debauchery
By Reclaimer77 on 10/24/2013 5:00:25 PM , Rating: 1
I've tried to explain this to Motoman several times. "Banning" lobbying in our current Government climate will be utterly pointless. NOBODY is empowered to enforce such a ban, the people with all the power sure as hell aren't going to police themselves either.

It's a bandaid. Lobbying isn't the problem with this country, hell it's not even on the top 10 list of things we need to fix.

Also there are proven cases where lobbying HAS had a positive net-effect. The NRA is a good example. Without them our Constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment rights would have long since been obliterated by Congress.

People need to widen their scope and ask themselves WHY lobbying is so successful, instead of blaming lobbying itself. Lobbying is so effective precisely because the Federal Government has nearly unlimited mandate power over our "sovereign" states, thus the people of the nation. The Government has expanded it's powers SO far beyond what they were even intended to be. Thus the scale of lobbying has been exponentially increased.

Simply put, in the past a lobbyist would have to sway 50 separate Governors or state legislatures to get their way. Good luck!

Today they simply need a Congressman.


Bribery?
By glenn8 on 10/24/2013 9:52:15 AM , Rating: 2
Where or who are these millions of dollars going to? How is this different from bribery? I can't see how such a thing can or should be legal.
I'm sure if they really tried to follow the money trail they'd know who is paying who. But since the watchman is being paid as well, there's probably no one left to watch the watchman.




RE: Bribery?
By glenn8 on 10/24/2013 10:03:32 AM , Rating: 2
I stand corrected. It seems lobbying money is tracked in the form of "campaign contributions." :p


RE: Bribery?
By retrospooty on 10/24/2013 10:09:28 AM , Rating: 2
It's also done in "gifts". Some are too large and would be tracked so it goes like this... Here Senator, vote my way and I will give your brother this house in the Hamptons, and sign lucrative contract with your sons company that he owns a 60% share in via the 3rd party investment firm that you set him up with for this purpose (for example).


RE: Bribery?
By retrospooty on 10/24/2013 10:05:08 AM , Rating: 5
"Where or who are these millions of dollars going to? How is this different from bribery? I can't see how such a thing can or should be legal."

It's not... It's legal because the people taking the money (Congress, and both parties leaderships) are the ones that would need to create a bill and vote it into existence to make it illegal. So basically lawmakers make laws that make themselves and their cronies richer and then they make laws to benefit their contributors. It sucks... Nothing new here, man has been taking advantage of man since the dawn of civilization. The only thing different here is the scale and sheer balls of the perpetrators. So obvious, its a slap in the face.


RE: Bribery?
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/24/2013 10:32:09 AM , Rating: 1
Kind of like how Congress banned its ability to insider trade for a hot second, making a ton of hype, only to quietly pass a law undoing most of that ballyhooed bill days later in a Friday vote that took 30 seconds and had no debate as most members of the House had gone home for the weekend.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/04/16...

So basically Congress tricked the public into thinking they'd banned their "right" to insider trade for good... but now are free to continue merrily trading on their inside knowledge, with virtually no risk of getting caught.

How much do you want to bet that members of Congress started shorting like crazy just before things started to look the most severe with the shutdown, then cashed out when the stocks rebounded right after?

Short Oct. 4, to buy on the 9th, sell on 22nd.. you make a nice 8 percent gain right there, minus the minor borrowing fees.


RE: Bribery?
By retrospooty on 10/24/2013 10:48:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yup... It's all slight of hand BS. They really dont even make much effort to hide it anymore. It's almost accepted.


RE: Bribery?
By Schrag4 on 10/24/2013 1:59:37 PM , Rating: 2
We've become numb, really. Even when something worse than normal is brought to light, leadership feigns outrage and promises to get to the bottom of it, then nothing further ever happens. We can only get our hopes up that something might change so many times before we stop caring altogether. We are all essentially second-class citizens at this point. Just my jaded opinion, of course.


RE: Bribery?
By Schrag4 on 10/24/2013 4:02:42 PM , Rating: 2
I came back to add: The media is in bed with the politicians. If the media beat the drum every day about how bad corruption is in Washington, people might care enough to vote every one of those crooked polititians out of office. Instead, it seems to me that the media only brings up scandals as a distraction. The "sleight of hand" reference nails it, really. "Look over here at this scandal while we secretly pass a new law that screws you over! (that we as leaders are exempt from of course)"


RE: Bribery?
By purerice on 10/25/2013 12:59:08 PM , Rating: 2
Nothing new here is right. If you read about medieval politics, ancient Roman or Chinese politics, or politics from anywhere else in the world at any time, the same thing happens.

People want to blame "Washington" but to anybody who does I would say, "read your local news over the past 10 years and see how many local politicians get busted for corruption and think about all the times they didn't get caught. If you think this is only the problem with "large" cities, look at Vernon, CA.

Politics, as with war, never changes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2Pt-LnQ2po


Inverted Totalitarianism
By chromal on 10/24/2013 1:28:27 PM , Rating: 3
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarian...

I personally blame Buckley vs Valeo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckley_vs_Valeo), but Citizens United (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United) and several others are part of the problem.




"Winning"
By superstition on 10/24/2013 6:10:16 PM , Rating: 2
Dylan Ratigan noted, in 2008, that the candidate who "raises" the most money (is given it by the 1%) "wins" 94% of the time. I'm sure that stat has gone up to at least 95% since Obama's wins certainly haven't changed the pattern.

Matt Taibbi noted, also in '08, that the same "donors" give their money to both parties' candidates. They don't give money to anyone who could be seen as even possibly making significant structural changes.

So, what we have is a single 1% political party with two brands.

Obamacare was about one thing and one thing only: getting the legal precedent, via the Supreme Court, that tax-payers can be forced to pay the bribe money corporations give politicians. By forcing consumers to buy private companies' products/services, politicians are ensuring that they get even more of this bribe money, too.




"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki