TOPIC: Lobbyists

For California water supply, $150 million spent to not solve the problem

California salmon run

Four years and $150 million into a major study of plans to re-engineer elements of California’s main source of water, a National Science Foundation review found the multi-billion-dollar proposal confused, poorly defined and inadequately researched.  That’s the gist of a piece by Gosia Wozniacka of The Associated Press picked up by the Riverside Press Enterprise.

Power brokers managing California’s fresh water supplies have long sought more access to the state’s two major rivers — the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. But taking too much water from the rivers creates all sorts of problems: (more…)

Wells Fargo and foreclosures: There really is no place like home

Underwater homeowners facing foreclosure despite promises of federal aid disrupted a  meeting of Wells Fargo Bank shareholders in San Francisco yesterday, reports Aaron Glantz of The Bay Citizen.

Demonstrators called on the firm, a recipient of emergency taxpayer aid during the financial crisis, to institute a foreclosure moratorium. Eight were eventually arrested after refusing to leave the building. (more…)

Amber waves of agricultural subsidies

Waste, corruption and unintended consequences of the nation’s ossified agricultural subsidy programs are a bit like the old story about the emperor’s new clothes — a truth everyone can see, but no one dare speak of as there are simply too many people profiting from the spectacle.

The federal prosecution of a California farmer for allegedly collecting crop insurance for a wheat field he never planted shows how well-intentioned programs have slowly but surely decayed into something very strange over the past seventy or so years. (more…)

Strawberry fields forever

Overruling concerns raised by environmentalists and farm worker advocates, California yesterday moved forward with plans to allow a cancer-causing fumigant to be pumped into the state’s soil. The chemical, methyl iodide, which kills weed seeds and nematodes, is already approved for use in 47 other states. The toxic compound will be primarily used to treat farm land prior to planting strawberry crops or nut trees. It may also be applied to vegetables and flowers. As Kelly Zito reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, environmentalist groups are up in arms over the announcement, suggesting that heavy lobbying by the chemical industry essentially bought regulatory approval. (more…)

Electing transparency in California

Election officials across the nation will soon receive letters from a former California GOP operative turned election watchdog beseeching them to creatively close loopholes created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, reports Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune.

Dan Schnur, the former Communications Director for John McCain’s 2000 campaign and now director of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, sent letters to 150 state elections and campaign finance officials around the U.S. yesterday asking them to critically examine the court’s ruling and find wiggle room to enact regulations requiring more disclosure of the origins of campaign money. (more…)

The bank can take that to the bank

There was plenty of outrage when news hit the stands that California’s welfare recipients had withdrawn $1.8 million worth of state aid from ATM’s inside tribal casinos over a seven month period-  and even more when it was revealed $12,000 in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families grants were accessed from ATMs inside California strip clubs.

While aid beneficiaries have been portrayed as fraudulent parasites and government officials as dopey incompetents, as Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, another group was laughing all the way to . . . themselves. (more…)

You too can get sick for just pennies a day

The trade off between safer eggs and the risk of a deadly salmonella outbreak is just pennies a dozen, according to a in-depth look at the industry by P.J. Huffstutter in the Los Angeles Times.

Slightly stricter guidelines in California have helped egg producers avoid bacterial contamination in recent years, but in an industry where the bottom line reigns supreme, tighter rules have caught on in only nine of the 50 states. (more…)

Obama Bans Lobbyists From Federal Advisory Boards! What Are Federal Advisory Boards?

The Washington Post’s Dan Eggen reports that the White House ethics counsel has told federal agencies that they can no longer have registered lobbyists on their federal advisory boards. Federal advisory boards, Eggen explains, are a bureaucratic labyrinth of about about 1,000 panels featuring a total of 60,000 people that provide expertise to federal agencies. For example, there’s a National Petroleum Council and a Defense Policy Board, that played a role in the Pentagon’s support for invading Iraq.

Industry reps tell Eggen that these boards, and by extension these agencies, will lose crucial expertise on how to handle complex policies and regulations. A good government advocate says it will make these boards more neutral. (more…)


One of the Obama administration’s new rules to restrict the influence of lobbyists is not exactly off to a high-flying start. Rita Beamish of the Associated Press reports that a rule was put in place so if lobbyists met with federal agencies about competitive grant money in the stimulus bill that meeting had to be disclosed. But these meetings are mostly not being disclosed — the Pentagon, for example, has reported that only one lobbyist has met with defense officials this entire year. The Pentagon controls $7.4 billion in stimulus spending.

It would be nice to know what lobbyists are getting access to the government officials who determine what states and contractors get these grants. But even if the disclosure rules get enforced, they are still deeply flawed: only meetings with registered lobbyists have to be reported. A meeting with, say, a state government official or head of a private construction company doesn’t have to go reported. The rule arguably promotes greater public transparency, but it also demonizes lobbyists at the expense of disclosing how access and influence-peddling in Washington actually takes place.-MB

Comments on Are Lobbyists Overpaid?

Re: Are lobbyists overpaid?
by Anonymous on 2005.10.07 04:10AM EDT  |
And, when looking at this “type” of lobbying and political paybacks, never forget about one of the last, true vestiges of the old “spoils” system: The existence of the Political Appointees in the State Department — most particularly those sent overseas as Ambassadors. Generally somewhere around a third of U.S. Ambasssadors are politically appointed — friends of the POTUS in one way or another, or the Vice POTUS or the latest current most powerful this, that or the other thing. They often abuse, tax and damage the resources of missions abroad — leading to at many times major distractions from the real purpose of an Embassy being in another country.