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Lobbying: how politicians are bought and sold

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  • Cort Greene
    http://www.marxist.com/lobbying-selling-and-biying-politicians.htm Lobbying: how politicians are bought and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2013
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      http://www.marxist.com/lobbying-selling-and-biying-politicians.htm

      Lobbying: how politicians are bought and
      sold<http://www.marxist.com/lobbying-selling-and-biying-politicians.htm>
      Written by John PickardTuesday, 30 July 2013
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      In his masterpiece called * Origins of the Family, Private Property and the
      State*, Engels pointed out that even in a �democratic republic�, wealth
      still wields power indirectly, but all the more surely. �It does this in
      two ways�, he explains, �by plain corruption of officials, of which America
      is the classic example, and by an alliance between the government and the
      stock exchange.�

      In a later work, *State and Revolution*, Lenin took up the same theme,
      examining the completely fraudulent character of parliamentary democracy.
      �At the present time�, he wrote,� Imperialism and the domination of the
      banks have �developed� both these methods of defending and asserting the
      omnipotence of wealth in democratic republics of all descriptions.�

      Writing in 1917, Lenin went on to quote the example of a minister in the
      Provisional Government, Palchinsky, who resigned his office and was
      promptly rewarded with a cosy job by the capitalists, on a salary of
      120,000 roubles a year. �What would you call this,� Lenin asked, �direct or
      indirect corruption?�

      These arguments of Engels and Lenin, which are fundamental to a Marxist
      understanding of politics and the parliamentary process, have been
      completely vindicated over and over again down the years. Recent
      revelations of parliamentary sleaze have once again laid bare the thousands
      of threads that big business has woven into the fabric of so-called
      representative government.

      It is well-known that, in Britain, Tory ministers have an open-door policy
      when it comes to meeting lobbyists and the representatives of capitalism,
      but it was revealed recently that the Government has an organised system to
      �buddy� multi-national firms with Tory ministers and moreover, there were
      plans to expand it. In July 2011, the trade minister Lord Green announced
      the original initiative to give 38 firms, including telecoms,
      pharmaceutical and oil companies, a direct line to ministers and officials.
      In 2013, it was announced, a further 12 firms were being added to the list
      and 30 more are under consideration.

      The original 38 firms, it was announced, had nearly 700 cosy face-to-face
      meetings with ministers in the first two years of the scheme. The oil
      company Shell alone has had 56 face-to-face meetings with ministers.

      Before the election, David Cameron said that the �2bn British lobbying
      industry was �out of control� but now that he�s in Downing Street, it is
      clear that the Tories have no intention to limit the access of their
      business pals to ministers and officials. The latest Government proposal to
      �register� lobbyists is no more than a fig-leaf that would only require the
      registration of professional lobbying firms. As the campaign group *Lobbying
      Transparency* explained, there are fundamental flaws with this approach.
      �Lobbyists-for-hire in agencies�, they explain, �account for only a small
      proportion of Britain's influence industry. They are outnumbered by
      in-house lobbyists by at least six to one�.

      *Lobbying Transparency* go on to explain how the system would be
      nonsensical: �a supermarket, say, with a team of six in-house, full-time
      lobbyists would not have to declare its lobbying, but if it temporarily
      took on an agency to increase its influence, only the agency would have to
      register its lobbyists.� Secondly, the government are proposing that
      lobbyists who are registered reveal only *minimal* information, that is,
      their names and their clients. This completely undermines any attempt to
      increase government accountability because it misses out completely any
      lobbyists' interaction with officials and ministers.

      It is clear that the Lobbying Bill is not intended to in any way shape or
      form to curtail the official or unofficial links between business and
      Parliament. The only firm measure it does offer is against the trade
      unions, in that it aims to put a limit on donations from the trade unions
      to the Labour Party � so the interests of thousands of working people are
      equated with the profits of big companies. While the howls of rage from
      ordinary people about endless austerity will continue to be met with
      blanket indifference, the representatives of big companies will still be
      feted and Government policies will be shaped and moulded to best suit the
      profits of the corporations.

      Tory policy on food labelling will continue to be made by the food
      companies; cigarette packaging policy by the Tobacco industry; policy on
      minimum alcohol pricing by the brewers and distillers; and health policies
      by the private health sector.

      What also ties business to officials and MPs and effectively buys them off
      is the �revolving door� policy that gives ex-ministers and ex-civil
      servants well-paid jobs in the private sector � and almost always in that
      part of big business for which they were previously responsible and which
      in some cases they were previously �policing�. Thus defence contractors
      take on ex-Defence ministers as consultants, private health companies take
      on ex-Health ministers, and so on. One of the most blatant was the
      appointment a few months ago of David Hartnett to work for one day a week
      for Deloitte, one of the top four auditing companies. Hartnett was until
      recently the head of HM Revenue and Customs. It was during his time in
      charge that cosy sweetheart deals were agreed between HMRC and Vodafone and
      Goldman Sachs to pay a nominal sum in taxes in lieu of what they ought to
      have paid.

      The Goldman Sachs deal saved them �20m in interest payments that ought to
      have gone to the Exchequer. Hartnett was said to have personally negotiated
      a deal with Vodafone who paid only �1.25bn of the �6bn originally claimed
      by HMRC. It was also on Harnnett�s �watch� that other companies, like
      Starbucks, paid nothing at all. Lo and behold, it transpires that Deloitte,
      Harnett�s new bosses, are the official auditors for Vodafone! Harnett�s
      wonderfully lucrative part-time job at Deloitte�s hasn�t stopped him
      getting another part-time post as an adviser to the banking group, HSBC.
      This is the bank, let us recall, which was fined $1.9bn by the authorities
      in the USA for laundering Mexican drugs money.

      Deloitte, of course, are not unique. All of the big four accountancy
      companies, including also KPMG, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Ernst & Young,
      frequently have their own staff seconded to work in the Treasury and in
      other government departments and they regularly recruit ex-civil servants
      with �inside� knowledge to work for them.
      Looking at all this, as Lenin would have asked: is it direct or indirect
      corruption?

      In the US Congress, the number of lobbying organisations is even more
      phenomenal. There are nearly fifteen thousand of them, *around thirty for
      each and every elected representative*. On every single issue, from climate
      change to taxation to health, to gun control � on *every* issue � these
      professional ear-benders are canvassing, phoning, meeting and schmoozing
      with elected representatives. Billions of dollars are spent on an
      industrial scale � over $3bn in each of the last five years � to *buy* the
      politicians that millions of Americans*think* they have elected. They have
      a thousand threads connecting them to PR agencies so they can spread
      unfavourable stories in the press to blackmail representatives who might be
      reluctant to follow their cues. It makes no difference whether they are
      Democrat or Republican � the overwhelming majority are in the pockets on
      business. The �revolving door� operates here, too, with former lobbyists
      getting top jobs as aides to congress members and then former aides going
      back into lucrative jobs among the lobbying firms.

      During recent demonstrations in Egypt, a BBC journalist asked a man in a
      Cairo street why he was demanding the overthrow of Morsi. The man replied
      that Morsi and the Egyptian Assembly had not put in practice the policies
      on which they were elected. Without a blush or a hint of irony, the BBC
      journalist asked, �*but that�s democracy, isn�t it?*� It might be democracy
      to an unprincipled philistine, or to a representative of business, but to
      any normal worker it is the*opposite* of democracy.

      The 2011 Survey of British Social attitudes posed the following statement
      to which people were asked to express agreement or disagreement: �Generally
      speaking those we elect as MPs lose touch with people pretty quickly�. The
      answers showed that nearly 73 per cent either �agreed� or �agreed
      strongly�. This shows the huge reservoir of cynicism that exists about
      politicians of *all*parties and it is a serious issue for the labour
      movement. It is an issue about how its elected representatives ought to
      behave in office. It is a disgrace that so many Labour MPs are out of touch
      with the lives and conditions faced by ordinary workers. It is an even
      greater disgrace that from time to time it is Labour politicians, like
      peers Lords Cunningham and Mackenzie, who have been embroiled in the sleazy
      cash-for-political-work business.

      The policy applied in practice by three Labour MPs in the 1980s � �A
      worker�s MP on a worker�s wage� � has more validity today than it has ever
      had and Labour Party members ought to make it a central theme of any
      discussions on Party elections and representation. Labour MPs should not
      hob-nob with the spokes-persons of big business; they should avoid the
      junkets and the �social club� atmosphere of the House and they should
      faithfully represent the people who elected them, by living on the same
      living standards and opening themselves to re-selection at every election.
      ------------------------------
      Cosy relationships: Tory business �buddies�

      1. Property firms Atkins and Balfour Beatty are �paired� with climate
      change minister, Greg Barker, who is in charge of the Tories� �green homes�
      policy.
      2. Nestle, Unilever, Mondelez (including Cadbury, formerly part of
      Kraft) and Associated Britiish Food are �paired� with David Heath, of the
      Department of Agriculture.
      3. Oil firms are �paired� with Vince Cable, Business Secretary.
      4. Proctor and Gamble, Willetts and Cisco are �paired� with Foreign
      Office minister Hugo Swire.
      5. Telefonica (O2), Orange and T-Mobile (EE) are �paired� with culture
      minister, Ed Vaizey.


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