Let's count our blessings. Congress is out of session. The men and women of Congress did their damage, sure enough, but at least during these hot, sticky days of August we're safe. They're on recess. Washington is now left with 35,000 lonely lobbyists.
Of course, some of those lobbyists have followed the politicians home. Why? Politicians and lobbyists go together. Can't have one without the other. Like a horse and carriage. Or, more to the point, love and marriage: a number of lobbyists have spouses who are members of Congress.
Linda Daschle comes to mind. Her husband, Tom, was the Senate Leader while she actively lobbied for a number of powerful interests with business before Congress. When the issue of a conflict of interest arose, we were told the couple didn't discuss it at home. Being married and knowing how hard it is to ever find the time to talk, the story is almost believable.
Senator Daschle is gone, of course, defeated in the last election. But many current members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have lobbying spouses or relatives.
And increasingly, politicians, when they are through slopping pork for a profession, are themselves becoming paid lobbyists — at top dollar. A study by Congress Watch finds that 43 percent of congressmen who in recent years have left office for a job in the private sector have become lobbyists. (So, take that term "private sector" with a grain of salt.)
Lobbying is a growth industry. In the last five years, the number of paid Washington lobbyists has doubled. And the cost of hiring professional lobbyists has also skyrocketed.
Why the increase in the number and cost of lobbyists?
It is little wonder that folks would want to influence Congress, considering all the money Congress spends and all the meddling Congress does. Federal spending has gone up 30 percent from 2000 to 2004 and Congress just passed energy and transportation bills stuffed with pork and an all-time record number of projects earmarked by individual congressmen.