"More Than Just Musing" #6

PAY FOR PLAY

No one is saying that the lobbyists are putting money directly into the pockets of our representatives. The dinners, golf outings, use of vacation homes, and free flights get our representatives in trouble every now and then. But, the lobbyists' checks to the campaign immediately disappear into the pot that might buy a TV ad or fly cousin Enos in from Omaha "to help with the campaign." Is it even possible to follow the money and build a case for campaign finance fraud? Probably not, but we can follow the post public service careers of the politicians who receive those campaign contributions.

To understand the process, follow the career of former high school wrestling coach Dennis Hastert through the Illinois legislature, through the Republican speakership of the House of Representatives, to being a consultant with the prestigious law and lobbying firm, Dickstein Shapiro, to being a victim of extortion (one of his victims, some irony), to being exposed as the child molester who paid $1.7m in hush money -- $50,000 every six weeks -- between 2010 and 2014.

Hastert spent 42 years in public service - teaching in 1965, to retiring Speaker in 2007. Three years before his retirement, 2004, he had a net worth of $496,503. Eight years after he retires, 2015, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives had an estimated net worth of between $3m and $17m.

With the exception of molestation and extortion, this is not an unfamiliar career path.

Take another familiar character at his word. In April 2018, to a group of 1,500 bankers, Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Protection Bureau and head of the Office of Management and Budget said, "If you're a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you. If you're a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk.

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