How Lobbyists Work

NPR has a story on how lobbying works. They focus on Jack Abramoff and his work for Tyco in 2003:

“They were fighting to stay out of the tax bill that year, which would have retroactively taxed them to the tune of about $4 billion,” Abramoff says. At the time, Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, had introduced a bill with a provision that targeted companies like Tyco, which maintained an off-shore tax status. The provision would have imposed new taxes on Tyco going back to 1997. So Abramoff and his team targeted the sponsor, Charles Grassley.”What we did was we plied him with contributions,” Abramoff says. …”In another email, the woman in charge of raising money for Grassley’s reelection writes to Abramoff’s lobbyist to ask about an event Abramoff’s firm is holding to raise money for Sen. Grassley. She asks, “What do you think would be a realistic number?” Translation: How much money will the fundraiser generate? Answer: $30,000.

It’s hard to figure out exactly how much Abramoff, his firm and his clients raised for Charles Grassley. Somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 seems like a safe range.

The story does show that Grassley still tried to put the tax piece back into the legislation after the House had taken it out. But the bill was eventually passed without the tax. Did the millions that Tyco spent and the tens of thousands that made its way to Grassley make a difference? It’s almost impossible to say. But if Tyco didn’t think it would be successful, why did they spend the money?

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