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Good times roll in Congress



Published: Thu, March 20, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Jim Hightower

OtherWords

How bad will it get? The public approval rating for Congress has sunk to 9 percent, the lowest level since Gallup began to ask us about it.

But your lawmakers are bound to get even more unpopular.

Willing legislators have begun a scandalous relationship with corporate cash. The lovebirds are hooking up in secretive rendezvous resorts like the Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton in Puerto Rico.

Lawmakers and lobbyists don’t like to talk about what they’re doing. They certainly don’t want voters or the media to see them. These getaways showcase the prostitution of our legislative system.

If you had wandered innocently into the swank Four Seasons hotel of Vail, Colorado, in early January, you might have witnessed these groups groping for each other’s support.

Assorted lobbyists, including one who represents the utility giant, PPL Corporation, had slipped tens of thousands of dollars into the political pockets of Rep. Ed Whitfield and four other House members for the pleasure of rubbing elbows, wining and dining, and whispering sweet legislative nothings to them for hours.

At one dinner, the cozy group dug into juicy — and expensive — Wagyu steaks and swilled $60-a-bottle wine as they played “scratch-my-back.” That’s Washington-style politics for you.

Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, was especially popular with the utility lobbyists because he chairs the House committee that handles legislation affecting — guess what? — utilities.

Quid pro quo

Ed must have had a good time in Vail, because when he returned to Washington, he promptly introduced a bill to let PPL and other electric utilities build additional polluting, coal-burning power plants — an industry favor that would overturn health protections recently approved by the Obama administration.

And it doesn’t look like this manipulation game will cease anytime soon.

Regarding these surreptitious meetings, a corporate lobbyist recently admitted to the New York Times: “Everybody is embarrassed about it. Although not so embarrassed that they don’t do it.”

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.


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