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November 16, 2009

You wouldn't want Reps making up their own remarks, would you?

Ken Silverstein on the widespread phenomenon of lobbyists writing talking points and even whole statements for members of Congress:

(A few years ago I found that the lobby firm of Patton Boggs had drafted a statement for Congressman Joe Barton of Texas in support of it’s client Kazakhstan. “Mr Speaker, if the United States is to become truly energy independent, it must seek non-OPEC alternatives for our supply of oil,” Barton’s statement said. “Kazakhstan can — and is willing to — help greatly in this endeavor.” When asked about this, Barton’s spokesman replied: “Some think Congress has no business listening to people who are paid to know something. They think congressmen would do better to get all their information from newspapers and social activists. We think that’s baloney. We take our facts where we find them, and we use them where we choose.”)

Someone enterprising politician could make political hay with a pledge never to let a lobbyist put words in their mouth.


Eh, this bothers me at first blush but after some meditation I find that I'm not that concerned. If a congress-person has decided that they're going to represent a particular group's interest, than it hardly matters who writes the remarks.

Having lobbyists, or social activists, or anyone else other than congress-people and their staff, draft legislation, that's a problem.

Sadly, lobbyist-written legislation is even more common than lobbyist-written talking points used verbatim. If you go to lobbying firms' websites, you'll see that many tell prospective clients straight up that they'll write legislation for them. Look for the "governmental affairs" section of the website.

Those politicians are bought and paid for by interest groups - nearly every one of them - so it is good that they provide a service for their paymasters at least.

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