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It has often been referred to as the ‘fourth branch of the U.S. government,’ and yet lobbying has continued to stay under the radar of many in the general public for some time.
Lobbying is a prime example of networking, because in this business, personal friendship and individual interests can not only override public benefit, but leaves other groups and individuals without these connections behind in the dust.
For some time now, the scandal involving Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud, money laundering and tax evasion charges, has drawn attention to both the lobbying world and the system under which it operates.
More specifically, Abramoff paid the wife of an unnamed congressional staffer $50,000 in return for the staffer’s assistance in destroying an Internet gambling measure.
This, along with a variety of other incidents, have members of Congress doing anything they can to distance themselves from Abramoff, especially ones whom he named after pleading guilty.
Suspicions are now being raised around current and former members of Congress, including Rep. Tom DeLay, who is already fighting his own charges of laundering in Texas. These particular charges against Abramoff resulted from his time representing the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, who make their money through legal gambling.
Over the course of Abramoff’s time representing the tribe, he was paid $32 million to lobby on its behalf, and his main objective was to keep a rival casino from opening.
A Senate investigation later revealed e-mails that indicated Abramoff was involved in the charged illegal activity. On top of this, his e-mail sometimes referred to his Native American clients as ‘monkeys’ and ‘morons.’
While it may be easy and tempting to dismiss this as just another Washington scandal involving greedy politicians, the general public should be careful not to grow complacent to such revelations.
Scandals of this magnitude are probably uncommon, although the more common, smaller, ethically questionable deals are what we should be worried about over the long run.
Americans should take this opportunity to demand more regulation in this area of government, instead of falling into the trap of partisan finger-pointing in order to win a few votes.
Former members of Congress frequently end up working as lobbyists, since they are considered ‘insiders’ and thus have more access to private meetings with their former co-workers.
In addition, these former Congressmen can earn far more money as a lobbyist for a large company than as a representative for a state or district.
In this case, Abramoff and a partner of his was paid the outrageous amount of about $82 million by the Indian tribes he represented.
People like Abramoff have turned our representative government into a multimillion-dollar industry, which, frankly, is not concerned with what’s best for either their clients nor the American people.

Maya Debbaneh is a fourth-year political science and biological sciences double major. She can be reached at debbanem@uci.edu

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