By Tony Russell|
"Chuck, how's it going, buddy? Long time no see!"
"Hey, Jack, good to see you! I'm just so damned busy since I joined the Congressman's staff that I haven't had time to do much of anything except milk the system and churn out public relations. I'm on the go all the time."
"So you've been doing some traveling, eh? Where've you been?"
"Let's see. The National Association of Real Estate Agents and Diamond News Network each paid for a trip to New York City; banking company DRT gave me a ticket to a Mets game; the American Satellite TV Dealers Trade Association flew me to Phoenix, Arizona; and Big Time Bank Corps sent me to The Lakes, Nev., to tour a credit-card center. The National Association of Previously-Owned Automobile Dealers and the Pharmaceutical Marketing Agency paid for separate trips to Charleston, South Carolina, during the Spoleto Festival and Ripley, West Virginia, during the Mountain State Arts & Crafts Fair. Diamond News Network sent me to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Lone Star State National Savings and Home Loan Bank took me to San Antonio during the NBA finals, and the Hawaiian Visitor Recruitment Agency flew me to Oahu for a five-day conference on beach erosion. God, I just love being in power! Ever since we took control of Congress, the lobbyists have outdone themselves."
"Is it all travel?"
"No way! Take this outing right here. A buddy and I decided to organize happy hour. But who wants to pony up their own money, right? So I called up Lou—the sour looking guy in the pinstripe shirt—and invited him. He's a lobbyist, and we'll end up sticking him with the bill for the beer. Order yourself another pitcher; it's on him!"
"Thanks. I guess having somebody pick up your beer tab really cuts your expenses, huh?"
"What expenses? This isn't just about beer. When it's time to eat, I pick a restaurant I want to eat at, call a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry or the energy industry, tell them I want a lunch meeting, eat, and hand'em the bill. Sometimes if I'm feeling generous, I bring the rest of the staff along."
"Don't the lobbyists get upset when you call them like that and then stick'em with the tab for your food?"
"Are you serious? They're dying for you to call. The money's not out of their pockets, and it's something they can show their clients. 'Sure we've got access to Congressman Sellout. I had lunch with one of his senior aides three times last week.'"
"Your overhead must be awfully low!"
"Jack, somebody else pays for everything. I got turned down for a mortgage last spring. They claimed my salary was too low for the house I wanted to buy. I said, 'What do you mean my salary is too low? The only expenses I have are rent and utilities. The lobbyists pay for everything else.' They said, 'Oh, sorry, we didn't realize you were with Congress,' and the mortgage sailed right on through."
"Don't these industry lobbyists expect something in return?"
"You're joking, right? For a few hundred thousand bucks worth of favors and campaign contributions, almost any industry can get legislation written that will be worth millions, maybe even billions of dollars. Hell, usually we let them write it themselves, to save ourselves the work. I'm ashamed we sell out so cheap; we're the best deal in Washington! But listen to me go on. Enough about me, Jack. What are you doing these days?"
"I work as an investigator for the Government Accounting Office."