retail news in context, analysis with attitude

A follow-up to a recent MNB story and commentary...

Several weeks ago, MNB posted the following story:

There is a story on MapLight.com, a website that describes itself as "a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics," saying that there is language in the 2013 continuing resolution preventing a government shutdown that essentially "stripped federal courts of their power to restrict the use of genetically modified crops that they find have not undergone a complete environmental impact assessment from the USDA. The rider essentially eliminated the only legal tool environmental advocates had for slowing down or stopping the use of new genetically modified crops."According to the story, the bill passed the Senate "by a vote of 73-26 and the House today by a vote of 318-109. Sec. 735 was inserted in the bill when it was in the Senate Appropriations Committee, although so far no member of the Committee has publicly acknowledged putting it in."Where it gets interesting is where MapLight offers "analysis of campaign contributions to members of the 113th Congress from the political action committees of several organizations supporting the use of genetically modified crops, since January 1, 2009," based on data provided by the US Federal Elections Commission (FEC), and finds that "current members of Congress have received $7,450,434 from the PACs of these organizations," and that "members of the Senate Appropriations Committee have received $371,925 from the PACs of these organizations."

And I commented:

I'm not sure what I find scarier - the implication that our government may be for sale (which we all knew, but hey, seeing the numbers still can be alarming) or the fact that when I read Sec. 735 of the continuing resolution, I never would have guessed that this has anything to do with genetically modified crops.

(Here is a link to the text of the continuing resolution. You see if you can figure out where it talks about genetically modified crops and the federal court system. Though the notion that legislation would be written in an obtuse way also is hardly a surprise.)

But on reflection, I guess I find it scarier that government is for sale. Though in this case, the fact that nobody is taking "credit" for the rider, would suggest something far more frightening about government officials - that they themselves have been genetically modified to have no backbone and no cojones.


Well, over the weekend, Salon.com reported that the government official who put the rider in there has been identified: "The Senator responsible is Missouri Republican Roy Blunt — famed friend of Big Agriculture on Capitol Hill. Blunt even told Politico’s David Rogers that he 'worked with' Monsanto to craft the rider (rendering the moniker 'Monsanto Protection Act' all the more appropriate)." And, the story notes that over three election cycles, Monsanto has contributed close to $120,000 to various Blunt campaigns.

To be sure, the willingness to sell one's office to the highest bidder is hardly the province of one political party or another. Witness this story from Sunday's New York Times:

"Restaurant chains like McDonald’s want to keep their lucrative tax credit for hiring veterans. Altria, the tobacco giant, wants to cut the corporate tax rate. And Sapphire Energy, a small alternative energy company, is determined to protect a tax incentive it believes could turn algae into a popular motor fuel.

"To make their case as Congress prepares to debate a rewrite of the nation’s tax code, this diverse set of businesses has at least one strategy in common: they have retained firms that employ lobbyists who are former aides to Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which will have a crucial role in shaping any legislation.

"No other lawmaker on Capitol Hill has such a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms, according to an analysis by LegiStorm, an online database that tracks Congressional staff members and lobbying. At least 28 aides who have worked for Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, since he became the committee chairman in 2001 have lobbied on tax issues during the Obama administration — more than any other current member of Congress, according to the analysis of lobbying filings performed for The New York Times ... Many of those lobbyists have already saved their clients millions — in some cases, billions — of dollars after Mr. Baucus backed their requests to extend certain corporate tax perks, provisions that were adopted as part of the so-called fiscal cliff legislation in January. Baucus aides who later became lobbyists helped financial firms save $11.2 billion in tax deferments and helped secure a $222 million tax benefit that is shared with the liquor industry."
KC's View:
I'm not sure I have to comment on this, since these stories, in my humble opinion, speak for themselves.

I guess I'm not really surprised. Government probably always has been for sale to the highest bidder. But somehow the size of the numbers involved, not to mention the crassness and cynicism with which these transactions are made, make me sick to my stomach.

How can we have faith in any of these clowns, or the institutions that they run? Institutions that, by the way, belong to us - the citizens of this country - not to the fat cats who sit in the Capitol or in the offices on K Street, believing that they know better.

I suppose that if you believe in Monsanto's approach to GMOs, you don't find the actions of Sen. Blunt to be all that bothersome. And if you think that Sen Baucus's approach to tax policy favors your company or industry, then "lobbyist" isn't going to seem like such a dirty word.

But you should be worried. Because there always will be a higher bidder, and political whores will always be willing to cash the biggest check, and someday that check may not be yours.