Before the rise of citizen journalism, the story might have been swept under the rug. The American people’s demand for transparency revealed Sen. Chris Dodd’s and the Obama administration’s complicity in the AIG mess.
Ellen Miller, co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, observes:
Our fears have materialized about what happens when no one reads legislation. Now we have proof that 13 hours wasn't enough time to read the 1100 page Stimulus Bill. Reports have emerged that Senator Dodd, at the behest of the administration, inserted an unnoticed loophole that allowed AIG employees to receive exorbitant bonuses. I am certain that if Congress had put that legislation online for 72 hours before it was considered -- if they had a chance to read it, or if you did -- someone might have caught that last minute loophole.
Citizen watchdogs are also shining sunlight on the scams run by lobbyists who convince corporations and special interest groups they need a “presence” in Washington.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports:
The résumé and pedigree of Harold Ickes mark him as a Washington power broker, exactly the type you’d hire if you needed a lobbyist to advocate for you with lawmakers. The son of Franklin Roosevelt’s Interior Secretary, Ickes was deputy chief of staff in Bill Clinton’s White House and a top adviser on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. As a lobbyist, Ickes and his partner reported earning $674,000 from their clients last year, but figuring out what they did to earn more than half their fees can be unusually difficult.
Ickes (sounds like icky) was one of the, um, brains behind America Coming Together. So, it was not surprising to see his name on the list. After all, folks are still trying to figure out what he did with the hundreds of millions of dollars he burned through in 2004.
The Center further reports:
A search of federal lobbying reports going back more than a decade reveals that Ickes & Enright is far from the only Washington lobbying firm to file such bare-bones reports with Congress. Reviewing reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records (SOPR) since 1998, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics found nearly 19,000 reports totaling at least $565 million in payments to lobbying firms for activity that was almost entirely unaccounted for. Last year, more than one in 10 filings were the equivalent of a single page--no issues listed, no lobbyists named, no government agencies contacted.
In an era of transparency, there will be less money for nothing. And since politics is Hollywood for ugly people, it's safe to assume few lobbyists are getting “chicks for free.”