|August 22, 2010|
|Lobbying Replaces Press as Fourth Estate|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The power of lobbyists to influence government has replaced the power of the press in that role, says an article in the September Vanity Fair by Edward Sorel. |
Lobbyists spent $3.5 billion last year to get their way and are helped by the "disintegrating media" which has lost influence by "trivializing" the news and by "willful disregard for facts and truth," says Sorel.
"Lobbying is now effectively the fourth branch of government," he writes, with about 90,000 lobbyists plying their trade in D.C.
He quotes Jack Abramoff, former lobbyist who served time in prison on felony charges, as saying he took part in a system of "legalized bribery."
The VF piece on lobbying follows a similar cover story in the July 12 Time that was headlined: "On Sale: Your Government. Why Lobbying is Washington’s Best Bargain."
Senator Bernard Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a letter to the New York Times April 24 that the financial industry spent $5 billion in ten years to overturn the Glass-Steagall Act and deregulate the industry, leading to the economic downturn.
Spending on Senate and House elections totaled $77 million in 1974 but by 2008 this had risen to $1.36 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Writing that "lobbying gets results," Sorel says that the pharmaceutical industry "cut a deal" with the Obama Administration to support its healthcare bill (spending in $150 million in ads) if the Administration promised not to push re-importation of cheaper FDA-approved drugs from other countries.
Press Is Battled
Sorel quotes White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer as saying that "What they teach you on the first day of press secretary school is to worry about blowing something up by giving attention to it."
But Pfeiffer also told Sorel that a response is necessary with some stories.
Tension is "high" in the sessions run by press secretary Robert Gibbs partly because of the "paucity of full-dress news conferences" by President Obama, says Sorel. He describes the Gibbs "style" as "pastel ties and sardonic asides."
Gibbs, says Sorel, "faces the most hyperkinetic, souped-up, tricked-out, trivialized and combative media environment any president has ever experienced" including a "fiercely partisan war" against it by Fox News.
He feels many reporters covering the White House lack sufficient experience — "the White House is their first big assignment."
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