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A Revenue Kiss for K Street

Even as lobbyists and their cozy ties to lawmakers come under increasing scrutiny by watchdog groups such as Public Citizen, the industry is enjoying a boom in revenues.  It received a $1.8 billion kiss from those seeking to influence lawmakers – most of them special interests—in the first six months of 2005, marking a record-setting 8 percent increase in revenue from the same period in 2004. For all of 2004, the industry raked in a staggering $2.4 billion, a 40 percent increase from 1999. The rash of business-pandering legislation zipping through Congress these days has no doubt contributed to this spike in spending.

And here’s a companion statistic to chew on: Since 2004, the Bush administration has spent $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars on 137 contracts with advertising and public relations companies, according to a GAO report released Monday. Why would the White House spend over a billion big ones on advertising and PR? Could it be that while special interest money poured into K Street with the goal of producing corporate-friendly legislation, the Bush administration followed suit by diverting taxpayer dollars to dress up these new laws in sheep’s clothing?

One place to look for PR dollars may be the Medicare prescription drug debacle. The government has had to spend a lot of money to help confused seniors navigate that train wreck of legislation, which has resulted in a windfall for drug companies. I just wonder who has spent more—the taxpayers who are picking up the cost of re-educating the public, or the 952 lobbyists who spent $141 million in 2003 trying to ensure that Medicare money would be directed to their clients. Who’d like to bet me that taxpayers got the bum end of this deal?

-Jess Kutch