Here's a scary number to ponder: 12,407. That's how many registered lobbyists there are in Washington -- the bulk of whom are paid handsomely to carry water for avaricious corporations.

And that doesn't count the untold number of influence peddlers who do not stoop to register, for they don't consider themselves to be mere lobbyists, even though they are paid extravagant salaries by elite lobbying firms. Rather than lobby, they "advise." These are longtime Washington insiders who act as sherpas, guiding corporate favor-seekers through the labyrinth of congressional backrooms and executive-branch offices to reach the peaks of legislative and regulatory power.

Today's lobbying corps, you see, is no longer the domain of common hustlers, but of credentialed and well-connected professionals, including more than 400 former US Senators and House members, plus more than 5,000 former legislative staffers -- all cashing in on the connections and insider knowledge they gained at taxpayer expense. Lobbying is now a $3.3 billion-a-year influence industry -- an unelected, private government of, by, and for special interests. And get this -- it even has its own lobbying group, the American League of Lobbyists, which lobbies for lobbyists!

As you might imagine, having such a powerful presence has given many within LobbyWorld an elevated sense of their own worthiness, so they now want to drop the tacky label of "lobbyist." Instead, the League of Lobbyists is asking its members to suggest a more prestigious (and less pejorative) brand name. Reportedly, an early favorite is "Government Relations Professional." But that's too ponderous. I think any new phrase needs to spell out a zippy acronym -- like SLICK, CREEP, or LEECH -- that really defines their work.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, a lobbyist, by any other name, would smell the same.

Listen to this commentary:

Photo: Flickr user Images Money, creative commons licensed.


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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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