K Street Lobbyists Go on a Feeding Frenzy

Never allow a good crisis go to waste” is not just a mantra for crooked politicians looking to impose their vanity on the people. It is also the motto of the K Street lobbyists who aggressively panhandle Washington, D.C., politicians for scraps of cash to benefit special interests at the taxpayer expense.

Politico‘s Theodoric Meyer looks at who is lining up for the “free” money that the U.S. Congress has authorized the federal government to borrow:

Airlines, pharmaceutical companies, utilities and shrimp processors are among the industries that have stepped up their Washington lobbying in an effort to influence the federal government’s response to coronavirus.

New disclosure filings show how much of corporate America — as well as small companies that had never hired lobbyists before — have pressed Congress and the Trump administration for help as the virus has placed entire industries in peril.

At least 3,200 companies, trade groups and other organizations lobbied on the $2.2 trillion relief bill that President Donald Trump signed into law last month and other efforts to respond to coronavirus, according to an analysis of disclosure filings by the Center for Responsive Politics. They include giants such as Apple, CVS and Toyota, as well as smaller players, such as the American Shrimp Processors Association.

The feeding frenzy is revealing that fiscal discipline has nearly completely broken down on Capitol Hill. How else to explain how well capitalized entities, like Harvard University, known for its multi-billion dollar endowment, tried to cash in to collect $8.7 million the U.S. government is gifting to enterprises whose cash has evaporated with the loss of business?

Or the actions of up to 37 affiliates of Planned Parenthood, who have collectively taken $80 million from the Paycheck Protection Program meant to allow cash-strapped businesses to keep from laying off their employees while their state or local government has ordered their closure, even though they were allowed to remain open for business and were thus ineligible?

The greed of these organizations, who routinely hire K Street lobbyists expressly for the purpose of soliciting funds from the federal government, means that other truly eligible small businesses have been forced to lay off their employees because the U.S. Congress allocated a fixed amount of money to provide that support. Once the money was gone, that was it. Because the money ran out, thousands upon thousands of layoffs have followed.

Those are two of the more egregious examples from the K Street lobbyists’ latest feeding frenzy. There are more examples, including a number of large corporations that lined up to collect money from the PPP program and got it, which came at the expense of small businesses meant to benefit from the program but who couldn’t collect before the money was gone. But at least these businesses have been relatively proactive in returning funds when they recognized their error after the government clarified the eligibility requirements for them.

That points to yet another problem revealed by the coronavirus recession: the federal government as an institution is not capable of managing the spending of large amounts of money well, which is a topic for another day.

For now, rest assured that K Street’s swamp dwelling lobbyists are well aware of that problem and boast of their ability to exploit it. Because that’s how they make their money.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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