Bill Moyers is joined by the heads of two independent watchdog groups keeping an eye on government as well as on powerful interests seeking to influence it. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics and Op...
Bill Moyers is joined by the heads of two independent watchdog groups keeping an eye on government as well as on powerful interests seeking to influence it. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics and OpenSecrets.org, and Danielle Brian, who runs the Project on Government Oversight, talk to Bill about the importance of transparency to our democracy, and their efforts to scrutinize who’s giving money, who’s receiving it, and most importantly, what’s expected in return.
Worth the 20 minutes with your morning coffee. These passages caught my eye:
BILL MOYERS: Hasn’t the buying of influence in Washington become so routine it’s now the norm?
DANIELLE BRIAN: Oh, there’s no question that it’s become the norm. And part of the problem with that is that people are less and less outraged. They get sort of used to it, journalists as well. And so I do think that what Sheila’s pointing to in addition to the campaign contributions and lobbying, which people think of when they think of money affecting government, it is also that revolving door that goes on where jobs, where people are leaving the federal government either from the Congress or the agencies and going to the industries that they had been overseeing or vice versa where they are leaving those industries and coming into the federal government.
These are the kinds of things that are really affecting policies. And then you have those same lobbyists who are dealing with legislation who are in the agency level who are also affecting how rulemakings, which is really some of the details that matter most. ….
DANIELLE BRIAN: It’s really I think the revolving door is maybe the most important corrupting element of in Washington because of– you have what we call, in this case that’s a reverse revolving door, right. But either way what you’ve got is people who are coming to the government or to be in public service with an incentive coming from their prior employer in this case.
You know, you’re not forgetting your friends who just gave you a multibillion or a multimillion dollar deal. Or you have people who are in the public service who are anticipating their next step, you know, their public service is essentially a stepping stone in their résumé to make more money. I don’t want that kind of person in my government. I would rather see that we have policies that really slow down the assumption that the reason you’re in government is to help go make money for yourself and for your next business afterwards.
OpenSecrets and POGO are doing great work. Good data is good! But two brief critiques:
First, I’m really not sure how useful the “revolving door” metaphor really is. Suppose the door were locked, and everybody working for the State did that for the rest of their lives, and everybody working in Civil Society did that. Would policy outcomes change that much, either for worse or for better? I’m not sure. I think it might be more useful to think of a single, fluid “political class.” Then, if we freeze the political class with a snapshot at any point in time, some members of that class will be seen to wield the violence that is the (putative?) monopoly of the State, and others to be engaged in the contractual or (putatively?) voluntary associations that make up the network of Civil Society. (I know; potted Gramsci. State does the coercion; civil society does the hegemony. Do feel free to propose superior tools!) Take a snapshot, and different players will be found in different roles, maybe even different uniforms, but the playbook, the plays, and the game will all remain the same.
Second, in some ways, I’m not even sure that it’s the corruption of policy that matters the most. As in so many places (Cooper Union) we have a governance issue, and part of what keeps current governance systems in place (this would be the hegemony part) is TINA — There Is No
about 1 hour ago