I mentioned the other day that I marveled at how cheaply Washington could be bought — "pennies on the dollar, really, for what they get." I wasn’t talking exclusively about campaign contributions, although that is certainly a part of it. The network of influence is much bigger than that. In a WaPo article on Disney’s attempts to get the federal government to pony up $200 million for an advertising campaign to draw foreign travelers into the country, one firm calculated how much money they had been able to deliver to their clients relative to cost:
The Carmen Group, a mid-size lobbying firm, regularly compares its clients’ costs with the benefits it says they receive from lobbying. In its latest internal assessment, Carmen said it collected $15 million in fees from about 70 clients and delivered $1.5 billion in assistance — measured both in benefits received and in burdens avoided — a return ratio of roughly 1 to 100. Most clients still part with their lobbying dollars grudgingly. But they do part with them, which is why new buildings are going up all the time to accommodate the industry’s growth. Want a former senator to guarantee a meeting with a current senator? No problem. Half the senators who leave Congress for the private sector register to lobby. Need to know the history of a tax law and whom best to ask to change it? Easy. At least half a dozen consulting firms are composed of nothing but former congressional tax aides and Treasury Department officials who know as much as, and probably more than, the current people inside.
The barriers between government and the private sector are very fluid and members of Congress are always looking to the lobbyist complex in terms of not only keeping their jobs, but also with an eye to their potential futures.
For corporate America it is a very cost effective system. Though with a return ratio of $1 to $100, I suppose "penny" on the dollar would be more appropriate.