• Politics

Government for Sale: How Lobbyists Shaped the Financial Reform Bill

28 minute read
Steven Brill

Two weeks ago, along a marble corridor in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, I watched about 40 well-dressed, well-coiffed men (and two women) delivering huge value for their employers.

Except that we, the taxpayers, weren’t employing them. The nation’s banks, mortgage lenders, stockbrokers, private-equity funds and derivatives traders were.

(See how drug lobbyists won on health-care.)

They were lobbyists — the best bargain in Washington. And even amid a popular revolt this year against the moneyed interests they represent, they delivered huge returns.

On September 18, 1793, President George Washington laid the cornerstone for the U.S. Capitol. While the silver trowel and marble gavel used for the ceremony are still displayed, repeated efforts to locate the cornerstone itself have been unsuccessful.

At times, policymaking seems as shrouded in mystery as the location of the Capitol’s cornerstone. That’s why you need an experienced partner to help you unravel the mystery.

(See how Barney Frank forged a reform bill.)

That’s the pitch you’ll find on the website for Capitol Tax Partners, one of 1,900 firms that house more than 11,000 lobbyists registered to operate in Washington. Last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), firms like Capitol Tax were paid a total of $3.49 billion for unraveling the mysteries of the tax code for businesses involved in everything from health insurance to defense contracting to international trade. According to Capitol Tax co-founder Lindsay Hooper, in the case of his firm, this meant providing “input and technical advice on various tax matters” to such clients as Morgan Stanley, 3M, Goldman Sachs, Chanel, Ford and the Private Equity Council, which is a trade group trying to head off a plan to increase taxes on what’s called carried interest, a form of income enjoyed by the heavy hitters who run venture-capital and other types of private-equity funds. (Time Warner, the parent company of TIME magazine, is also a current client of Capitol Tax Partners.)

Here’s what a bargain lobbying is: Since 2009, the Private Equity Council has paid Capitol Tax, which has eight partners, a $30,000-a-month retainer to keep its members’ taxes low. Counting fees paid to four other firms and the cost of its in-house lobbying staff, the council reported spending $4.2 million on lobbying from the beginning of 2009 through March of this year. Now let’s assume it spent an additional $600,000 since the beginning of April, for a total of $4.8 million. With other groups lobbying on the same issue, the overall spending to protect the favorable carried-interest tax treatment was maybe $15 million. Which seems like a lot — except that this is a debate over how some $100 billion will be taxed, or not, over the next 10 years.

(See “Lobbyists and Their Return on Investments.”)

And what did the money managers get for their $15 million investment? About $10 billion in lower taxes. While lawmakers did manage to boost the taxes of hedge-fund managers and other folks who collect carried interest as part of their work, they agreed to a compromise (tucked into a pending tax bill) that will tax part of those earnings at the regular rate and another part at a lower capital-gains rate. The result? A tax bite about $10 billion smaller than what the reformers wanted. That payoff is all the more remarkable when you realize that this tax break is going to some of the wealthiest Americans and that all the reformers wanted originally was for those folks to pay the same graduated income-tax rate that normal wage earners do. And there was even a parting gift from Congress: with a little-noticed, lobbyist-inspired tweak in the proposal — making it effective in 2011 instead of the proposed 2010 — Capitol Tax and the others achieved an immediate, additional tax savings for their clients of about $2 billion.

A Lobbyist’s Super Bowl
The battle over that carried-interest provision was dwarfed by the real action this year — the massive financial-regulatory-reform bill hammered out by a House-Senate conference committee and targeting what the White House says were the causes of the economy’s near meltdown in 2008. The legislation, which would bring more change to Wall Street than anything else enacted since the New Deal, was a Super Bowl for lobbyists. But with the legislation, unlike the Super Bowl, where there’s one winner and one loser, every yard the lobbyists gained bought handsome returns for their clients, even as the final score that dominated the headlines was that major financial reform had passed and Big Business had lost. This is the story of how they grind out those yards.

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The 40 people I saw in that Capitol Hill corridor in mid-June were part of an army of approximately 2,000 monitoring the two-week-long conference committee between Senators and Representatives trying to reconcile their different versions of the bill. In the past, these sessions have been good government’s Bermuda Triangle, a black hole of backroom deals. The lawmakers usually worked out the differences between the bills in secret, often inserting entirely new and undebated provisions provided at the last minute by lobbyists. The full House and Senate would then have to vote up or down on the final result, often without having had time to read, much less consider, those changes.

This time the process was more transparent. Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank and Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, whose committees largely wrote the two bills, agreed to televise their meetings and publish any proposed new language in advance of the conference’s consideration of it. But most of the real action came on the nights and mornings between the televised sessions, when the always witty, often acerbic Frank and his House colleagues would decide what they would offer the Senate in the way of language to reconcile the two bills. The more avuncular Dodd and his Senate colleagues would then frame their responses, with some input from the Republicans because they still needed at least one GOP vote to pass the whole thing. The public part of the meeting consisted mostly of announcements of the two sides’ offers and acceptances, all of which had been hammered out earlier behind closed doors. The exception was on the final day of bargaining, June 24, when committee members and their staffs, lobbyists and reporters spent 20 hours crowded into a large Senate hearing room, where last-minute deals were made on the fly until 5 o’clock the next morning.

(See “In Financial Reform, Rules Made to be Broken.”)

The Weapons of Modern Warfare
In the ’80s, when lobbying was a cottage industry com pared with what it is today, so many lobbyists swarmed the corridors like the one outside the conference room that the press dubbed the halls Gucci Gulch in honor of lobbyists’ preferred footwear. Now they usually work more efficiently and less conspicuously: most of the 2,000 lobbyists who registered this year to lobby for the financial industry (that’s almost four for every member of the House and Senate) were on the phone or exchanging e-mails or text messages back at the office. Having downloaded the day’s proposed language changes, they could watch the conference proceedings live and launch surgical strikes.

Just outside the House Financial Services hearing room, two dark-suited, slightly graying men madly BlackBerrying look up and blanch at my press credential as if they’d been caught passing a bag of money to someone. After being promised anonymity, they explain that they’ve been dispatched by their boss, as one puts it, “to grab one of the senior staff on the Republican side and give him an idea about how to reword something in the Volcker rule.”

(See if financial reform is inevitable.)

The Volcker rule, named for former Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who was one of those who first suggested it, would prohibit banks from putting their own money into risky ventures such as private-equity or real estate deals. It’s a restriction that its advocates believe could prevent the next financial implosion. Bankers hate it, but their lobbyists have been unable to fight it off. Instead, they have been chipping away at it — suggesting provisions that would allow some percentage of those funds to go into high-risk deals, delay the rule’s implementation or exempt some big players.

(See “Q&A: Obama on His First Year in Office.”)

The two lobbyists I encounter in the hall are working on a narrower Volcker-rule carve-out. They’re representing “some green-energy interests,” one says. What’s that got to do with the Volcker rule? He explains that Washington is encouraging green-energy investments by granting tax credits, but only investment entities like banks that make consistent profits have predictable tax liabilities and therefore can make use of such tax credits. For $20,000 a month, Capitol Tax’s Hooper is pushing to get the same carve-out for the members of the American Wind Energy Association. If he doesn’t, he says, it could slow down billions in investments that the Obama White House has been championing. “Much of what good lobbyists do,” he says, “is work with legislators and staff to avoid unintended consequences of well-intended proposals.”

“Unintended consequences” is a refrain I will hear often when asking lobbyists about their work. But seasoned Hill staffers will tell you that innocent-looking carve-outs sometimes become gaping loopholes.

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By the time the bill was finished, lobbyists seeking Volcker-rule carve-outs had won complete exemptions for most mutual-fund companies and a provision allowing banks to manage funds and still make investments of up to 3% of their capital and to take up to seven years to sell off the investments they already had. Another highly technical tweak allowed banks to define their capital differently from what was originally proposed, meaning that 3% limit on how much they could invest suddenly got lots higher. And the clean-energy troops won a provision tucked into a paragraph on page 670 that, depending on how the implementation rules get written, might allow exceptions for investments in small or start-up businesses that “promote the public welfare.”

Complexity is the modern lobbyist’s greatest ally. The House bill was 1,615 pages; the Senate version 1,565. The final bill weighed in at 2,319 pages. And on almost every page there were dozens of phrases — typically framed in near unintelligible legalese — whose wording could mean millions or billions to some company or industry. Depending on which side you believe, they could also mean better protection — or a worse economy — for the rest of us. The bill requires, for instance, that most mortgage companies that sell off their mortgages in repackaged securities keep at least a 5% interest so that they still have skin in the game. Will this prevent another housing bubble, or will it dry up 5% of the credit we need to revive the housing market?

(See if Obama’s financial reform plan was bold enough.)

Three lobbyists showed me three different proposals for rewording what may be the bill’s biggest-money section: a provision in the Senate version that would force the five major banks that do most of the country’s trillions of dollars of trading in derivatives — and make nearly $23 billion a year doing so — to spin off those operations. Even holding the dueling paragraphs side by side by side, I found it difficult on first read to appreciate the differences. But on closer inspection and with some pointers from the lobbyists, it was clear that billions in profits depended on the variations in this nearly impenetrable language. In the wee hours of the final morning, the conferees resolved the issue largely along the lines of one of the versions I saw that divided up derivatives into different categories: banks were allowed to keep certain types of trading operations while being forced to shed others.

“Complexity is our enemy,” says Elizabeth Warren, chair of the congressional panel overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, who conceived one of the legislation’s marquee provisions — a consumer-protection agency to regulate mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. “The more complex these bills are,” she complains, “the more they can outgun us.”

The Grease in the Machine
This all sounds pretty terrible. President Obama at least acts as if he thinks so. He’s barred lobbyists from working in his Administration and used some language to describe them that he hasn’t used on BP. The press seems to agree; news outlets routinely use influence peddler as a synonym for lobbyist.

(See Wall Street meet Ken Feinberg.)

So why does Dave Wenhold of the three-person lobbying firm Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies have “LOBYIST” for the license plate of his Mustang convertible? “Because I am proud of what I do,” he says. “I think lobbyists provide input that makes the system work better. And in my case,” he adds, “I’m often David going against Goliath.”

Wenhold, a graying, sharp-dressing 42-year-old, serves as president of the American League of Lobbyists, a group that claims to speak — and sometimes lobby — for lobbyists. He points to one of his clients to illustrate the constructive role his profession can play. It’s a trade association of small telephone-answering services, the kind whose operators pick up the phone when you call a plumber on the weekend. The answering services have chipped in to pay Wenhold’s firm $4,000 a month because they’re afraid that the way a single sentence might be drafted in a pending Federal Communications Commission rule could put them out of business. It has to do with a fee all telephone companies pay into a fund to support rural phone service. It’s so complicated that while Wenhold’s argument that the big companies are trying to have their way with his little guys sounds right, it’s hard to know for sure.

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But that’s Wenhold’s point: these mom-and-pop answering services need a lobbyist who can spot an arcane issue like this and explain it to regulators and the legislators who oversee them. Wenhold should not be embarrassed to tell his kids what he does all day. Nor should Hooper of Capitol Tax Partners, a soft-spoken tax lawyer and accountant who spent five years as a senior staffer on the Senate Finance Committee, perhaps the most professional committee on Capitol Hill. He is, he says, a “nuts-and-bolts substantive lobbyist, not a door opener.”

The Constitution is squarely on Wenhold’s and Hooper’s side. The First Amendment explicitly protects our right to “petition the government” — more explicitly, in fact, than it protects many of the rights the courts have given me as I report and publish this article. Why shouldn’t that answering-service operator, or the CEO of Goldman Sachs, be able to hire someone to help do that, especially when what they are petitioning about is so complex?

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With that in mind, the President should be the last to complain about lobbyists, and lobbyists should be the last to complain about him, whatever his rhetoric. For the age of Obama has brought an explosion of complexity to Capitol Hill. In addition to the 2,319 pages of financial reform, the Administration’s health care bill was 906 pages, and the economic-stimulus measure weighed in at 407 pages. The 1914 law establishing the Federal Trade Commission — with its sweeping commerce and antitrust regulations — was eight pages. The 1935 Social Security Act, which also included unemployment compensation, child-welfare services and a complex allotment to states for aid to dependent children, was 28 pages.

It’s no surprise then that the $3.49 billion spent on lobbyists in 2009 was a record, more than twice the figure for 2001. There was a lot of mystery to unravel.

In preparing a story, a reporter is best served by listening to those on all sides so that he can weigh their best arguments. A good legislator does the same thing with lobbyists, says Congressman Frank. “I feel better about a position when I can hear both sides … You use them to inform you,” he adds, “as long as they know that if they lie, they lose. They will never be allowed to come back to this office.” In fact, lawmakers turn to lobbyists to stage the debates. “I help my boss the most when I can play the good lobbyists off each other, just the way a judge or a jury hears all the evidence and the lawyers’ arguments and then decides,” says a Senate-committee lawyer who played a key role in drafting some of the most arcane but big-money provisions of the reform bill.

(See who Obama’s unlikely partner in finance reform was.)

Lobbyists describe their role in stronger terms. “If you banned all lobbying tomorrow, the legislative process would grind to a halt,” says Wenhold. “You can call us special interests, but the ones who are especially interested are the ones who can explain the consequences of writing a bill this way or that way. We make the system work.” A financial-services trade-association executive, who says lobbyists provide not only crucial policy input but also what he calls critical “technical assistance” (which more cynical observers would call drafting the legislation), puts it more bluntly: “Most members [of Congress] may know one or two issues well, if that. Then you have a 26-year-old kid, maybe he’s even 30 and went to a good law school, who’s on the staff working 10 hours a day and is supposed to tell his boss how to do derivatives regulation or credit-card reform. Are you kidding?”

What adds weight to that argument is that lately those kid staffers are working shorter stints before departing for jobs at double or triple their government salaries at, yes, lobbying firms, where the top people can earn $1 million to $4 million a year. There are important exceptions — senior staffers, especially on important committees like those dealing with taxes, who seem to have caught the public-service bug long-term and are able to weigh the lobbyists’ arguments knowledgeably and independently. But according to Jock Friedly of LegiStorm, which tracks congressional-staff assignments and salaries, the average tenure for congressional staffers is now about two years. “Over the past 20 years, people have moved much more quickly into the lobbying world,” he explains. Of the approximately 2,000 lobbyists working on financial reform last month, more than 1,400 had been congressional staffers or worked in the Executive Branch, and 73 had been members of Congress, according to a report issued jointly by the CRP and the Congress Watch unit of Public Citizen, a self-styled public-interest group.

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War of the White Papers
Depending on those staffers turned lobbyists to provide a courtroom-like balanced debate also ignores the imbalance of forces storming the Hill. Except for the fight over one key provision — a measure to limit what banks can charge retailers to process debit-card payments, an issue pitting major retailers against the banks — lobbyists for the banking and financial-services industries simply outgunned lobbyists for consumers. “We have three lawyers total working on this [entire bill],” says Travis Plunkett, the legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America, a lobbying and education organization representing 280 nonprofit groups. “They can have three people working on a paragraph.”

The imbalance can be measured not just in bodies but also in the unending flow of alternative-language proposals and extravagant “white papers” that the heavy hitters churned out. My favorite white paper this season was the Private Equity Council’s “study” of how taxing those who run these funds at the same rates that everyone else pays for earned income would be disastrous for the economy. It was 15 dense pages, elaborately footnoted, colorfully graphed and full of intimidating calculus formulas that purported to show how higher taxes paid by people who manage equity funds would dry up investments because their after-tax income would be lower and therefore they wouldn’t want to take on as much risk. This is gibberish posing as scholarship. The 20% fee that fund managers get from the fund’s profits (that’s the famous “carried interest” that Capitol Tax Partners was trying to protect, and it often amounts to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars) has nothing to do with any investment-risk calculation they make, because they are not risking or investing a penny to get that slice. They get those fees (plus typically a guarantee of 2% of all the money they manage, whether they invest it successfully or not) simply for showing up every morning and managing the fund. It’s risky only in the sense that the average worker risks not getting a bonus if he doesn’t perform well. The so-called limited partners whom the fund managers rely on to actually invest in their funds are the ones making the risky investments, and their favorable tax rates would not go up under the proposed reform. “I have trouble with that logic myself,” concedes one of the funds’ lobbyists when asked about the white paper, “but when you publish something like this, it gives a staff person or member who wants to help you something to hang his hat on … It helped us get the compromise,” he adds, referring to the resulting rate (now tucked into a broader tax bill that awaits a final vote) that is between the regular tax rate and the lower capital-gains rate.

(See how the Goldman case shed light on hedge funds.)

Beyond the resources lobbyists can deploy, there’s the campaign money they can supply. The average winning congressional campaign in 2010 is likely to cost about $1.5 million, requiring the incumbent to raise roughly $15,000 a week. Lobbyists not only contribute on their own but are the most important fundraisers in the money grind, because they serve as lawmakers’ links to the most promising donors: those with business interests related to each member’s committee assignments. So it was no surprise that as the financial-reform conference began its deliberations, the CRP reported that since 1989 the 43 members of the committee had received $112 million from donors associated with the finance, insurance and real estate industries. “You can say that lobbyists on the Hill are like lawyers in the courtroom and that the advocacy system produces the best result,” says David Arkush, the director of Congress Watch. “But in court you don’t have the lawyers and clients donating to the jury.”

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The Fights You Can’t See
Yet it would seem that for all their advantages, the high-powered lobbyists lost big, assuming the financial-reform bill wins the necessary votes in the Senate. Everything that Goliaths like the Chamber of Commerce (which alone spent $144.5 million last year lobbying for business interests) fought — the new consumer-financial-protection agency, derivatives regulation, restrictions on banks’ adding risk by trading on their own accounts, regulation of debit-card fees — made it into the final version approved by the conference. So what’s the problem? “The more important an issue is to the public,” says Congressman Frank, “the less important the lobbyists are … The one thing politicians care more about than money is votes. So when an issue catches the public interest, lobbyists and contributions will almost always take a backseat — unless the politician is a crook.”

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And so, amid deep public bitterness over the financial meltdown and the bailout that followed, financial reform became a wave no army of lobbyists could hold back. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and have spent most of my career tinkering at the margins but losing the war,” says the Consumer Federation’s Plunkett, who calls the final version of the bill’s new consumer-financial-protection bureau “pretty much a complete win … What I saw this time was that every once in a while the public can win and money doesn’t triumph because the public is really paying attention.”

Nonetheless, there were all kinds of compromises in which the lobbyists tamed what they couldn’t kill. Some were highly visible. For example, to many reformers, the obvious way to deal with too-big-to-fail banks was simply to break them up; instead, a “systemic risk council” was established to monitor them, and a scaled-back Volcker rule was enacted to limit them. And in another highly visible retreat by legislators, car dealers, whose businesses are located in every congressional district — making their lobbyists “more powerful than bankers’,” says Frank — won an exemption from new regulations on consumer loans. But most of the compromises were nearly invisible — tweaks in definitions, changes in who would be covered, delayed start dates for new regulations. It was here that the lobbyists earned their money.

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For example, an important though unheralded issue in financial reform was the extent to which various provisions governing bank reform would override state laws or regulations on the same questions. If a state has a tougher set of regulations governing, say, bank loans, would those rules be set aside by the new federal regulations? There are good arguments on both sides, with the banks coveting what is called federal pre-emption and consumer groups, backed by the White House, fiercely opposing it. One lobbyist told me of how — using the two essentials of successful lobbying, personal relationships and money — he got a boost from two Democrats in the House “who wanted to help us and whom we knew well through prior associations and have helped raise money for.” They provided important support for pre-emption even though they vocally backed the overall reform bill. “They said, ‘I can’t be with you on the bill,'” he continues, “‘but show me where I can help you out and then give me some backup'” — which came in the form of a white paper on pre-emption, prepared by the American Bankers Association. The result was a compromise allowing limited federal pre-emption.

This kind of chipping away behind the scenes has only just begun. In fact, if and when the bill is finally approved, the action is going to become even less visible, moving from Capitol Hill to the bowels of the Washington bureaucracies. Officials at multiple agencies, including some new ones that have to start from scratch, will need to write all kinds of regulations to implement it, using an elaborate process of drafts, hearings, public-comment periods and all kinds of other red tape. Referring to a provision that requires banks to set “reasonable rates” when charging retailers for debit-card transactions, a top lobbyist for the credit-card industry says, “When it comes down to it, there are all kinds of definitions of reasonable and of cost … Those are the real trenches for us,” he continues, adding almost gleefully that he has a list of “more than a hundred provisions” that will require elaborate rulemaking, with billions in bank fees at stake.

(See if Obama can keep delivering on his promise.)

A Better Way?
Some of the lobbyists’ behind-the-scenes victories, whether on the Hill or at a bureaucrat’s drafting table, might in fact prevent the unintended consequences for the economy that became the lobbyists’ mantra this spring. But the point is that their influence almost always exceeds the power of their arguments. Is there any way to fix an imbalance that will once again hold sway when public attention shifts elsewhere?

Disclosure is usually thought to be a good solution, but as Wenhold (the guy with the “LOBYIST” license plate) points out, “We are already the most regulated, open-book industry in the world. We have to file public quarterly reports of all the money we get, from whom, and whom we lobby.” But there could be improvements — like requiring members of Congress to disclose their contacts with lobbyists the way lobbyists now have to sign in to a public log when they go to meetings with many regulators and other Executive Branch officials. And reporting of these contacts could be done in real time and be posted on the Internet. But disclosure has yet to embarrass legislators out of meeting with and taking campaign contributions from the private interests whose fates they legislate.

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The emergence of groups like CRP — a savvy corps of policy wonks with obvious technical expertise — has increased accountability. CRP crosses lobbyists’ registration reports with campaign-finance filings to produce pungent press releases, like one spotlighting Congressman Joe Barton’s reliance on oil-industry contributions just hours after Barton apologized to BP for how it had been treated by the White House. It won’t be long before CRP, Congress Watch and other groups churn out real-time contribution breakdowns within minutes of key votes — useful information for voters and good fodder for lawmakers’ opponents.

Dan Geldon is a staffer who worked for Elizabeth Warren as she pushed her idea for a consumer agency to regulate financial products. Propelled by her relentless and highly effective television appearances, her agency survived pretty much intact despite hurdles thrown in the way by legions of business lobbyists. It was a process that Geldon says was “shell-shocking.” His solution is a tax on lobbying that would finance a new research arm of Congress, akin to an expanded version of the highly regarded Congressional Budget Office, that would provide unbiased advice on pending legislation to balance the lobbyists’ input. Arkush, of Congress Watch, says his and like-minded groups have a more radical plan in the works. His idea, inspired by the January Supreme Court decision banning limits on corporate campaign contributions as a violation of First Amendment rights, is a constitutional amendment stripping for-profit corporations of First Amendment rights. Corporate political contributions could then be banned, as could the hiring of lobbyists. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein could hire a lobbyist with his own money, but Goldman couldn’t. This might appeal not only to progressives like Arkush but also to Tea Party sympathizers and others frustrated with how our democracy has become a game for insiders.

(See how uneasy Americans are with Wall Street.)

But let’s remember that New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court case that set the course for press protections from libel-law abuse, involved corporate speech (an ad in the Times). And however limited Congress’s appetite for passing an amendment like this might be, it would also require the votes of three-quarters of the country’s state legislatures, which are corporate-lobbying playgrounds that make Capitol Hill seem pristine.

Even if Arkush and his colleagues could make lightning strike, would we really want those mom-and-pop telephone-answering services prohibited from hiring Wenhold? Then again, whether it’s the big banks or big oil, can we afford to keep the system we have, especially when we have to assume that the players with all the money will continue to double down on their investments in what may be Washington’s only bargain? The idea of a representative democracy is that we elect smart, good people to decide issues — like Volcker-rule carve-outs or who can trade derivatives with whose money — that are too complex for the rest of us to decide directly. But when those issues are so complicated and when those representatives are so reliant on private interests not only for information but also for campaign money, that can’t be a good bargain for the rest of us.

(See seven key elements of financial reform.)

Here’s a simpler idea that might keep Wenhold in business while tempering the influence of the heavier hitters. It would be combined with fuller, faster disclosure; more restrictions on the revolving door between members of Congress and their staffs and the lobbying firms; and something like Geldon’s souped-up policy-research unit. And it doesn’t require a pie-in-the-sky constitutional amendment. The Senate and House could adopt their own rule, as they have done regarding other ethics issues, prohibiting any member of Congress from accepting contributions from firms that lobby them. In other words, the lobbyists could continue to argue their cases, but they would have to stop contributing to the jury.

Lobbyists, who would save a ton of money and time now spent going to endless fundraisers, might even favor it. And it would be fun to read the white paper arguing against it.

Brill, a longtime journalist who founded The American Lawyer magazine, is a co-CEO of Journalism Online, which is enabling publishers to pursue strategies for charging for their online content

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