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Tax Reform? Not Without Lobbying Reform

October 7, 2017 Frontpage No Comments


The call woke me up at 11 p.m. one winter night in early 1982. The line was noisy, and so was the joint that my acquaintance called from, but that wasn’t the only problem: He was also drunk.
“Chris, I’m sitting here in Santo Domingo with my good friend Enrique. He’s the agriculture minister here. I’d like to put you on the line with him — please tell him how much Senator Helms supports increasing the sugar quota for the Dominican Republic.”
“Wait a minute, Lynn,” I said, “why don’t you call me at the office at a civilized hour, and why do you think that Senator Helms supports increasing the sugar quota for the Dominican Republic?”
“Chris, that’s great news — I knew the senator was on board. Why don’t you say hello to Enrique, he’s right here, just say hello and let them know what great friends we are.”
A tentative voice came on the line. “Ola? Cristobal? Enrique. Mucho gusto.”
Well, it was late, and Lynn shouldn’t have called me at home. But at the Senate, where I was staff director for the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, his chances of getting me on the line were pretty slim, even if he was sitting with Enrique, obviously a prospective lobbying client.
“Ola, Don Enrique,” I said. “Listen, I don’t know why Lynn called me, because Senator Helms doesn’t support raising your sugar quota. He’s the chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. Senate, not in the Dominican Republic. And watch out for Lynn — frankly, I don’t trust him.”
Or words to that effect.
Enrique gave a hearty laugh and said, “Gracias, Don Cristobal, mi amigo!” And I hung up.
I don’t know if Lynn got the contract, but he was always furtive when I bumped into him on the Hill. And his call? It was rude, and perhaps crude, but it was not extraordinary. Washington lobbyists make a lot of money, but first they have to land their clients. And Lynn was country-hopping, trying to sell “access” wherever he landed (why had he taken my home number with him? He had scoured his Rolodex for every name on the Hill he could find, that’s why).
Stories about smarmy lobbyists abound in Washington. My favorite — at least my favorite that I can recount in a family newspaper — involves a fellow who set up shop after a couple of years working somewhere in town. When prospective clients visited his office his secretary would knock softly on the door, peek in, and say, “Sir, Mr. Meese is on the phone.”
“Mr. Meese” was the attorney general of the United States.
The lobbyist would pick up the phone. “Hi, Ed — say, can I call you right back?”
No kidding — tell the attorney general of the United States that you’re too busy to talk to him! That charade was this guy’s modus operandi whenever a prospect came calling. Of course, Ed Meese had never heard of him. Well, there are no secrets in Washington, and when local paper let the cat out of the bag, he became a laughingstock, not a lobbyist anymore.
And guess what? Ed Meese finally heard of him!
So President Trump wants Congress to pass a simpler, fairer, flatter tax code. Will it pass? Let’s put it this way: If it does, a lot of lobbyists are going to have to learn to drive a truck. And that’s not going to happen.
Lobbyists prosper because the Washington region is now the richest in the country. Everybody scratching everyone else’s back, with your money. There’s an old story that the city was built on a swamp. So was Mexico City — and both capitals float on billions of dollars-worth of influence and graft. Different styles, to be sure, but in both cities, it’s corruption that floats the boat.

Happy Anniversary, Lepanto

“Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far, / Don John of Austria is going to the war” — G.K. Chesterton, Lepanto.
On October 7, 1571, the forces of the Holy League triumphed over the overwhelming Turkish fleet in the Mediterranean off the coast of Greece. The young Miguel de Cervantes was gravely injured, but survived to write the most enduring classic of all Spanish literature, Don Quixote de la Mancha.
The victory was as complete as it was miraculous — the outnumbered Holy League captured 117 galleys and their crews, liberated thousands of Christian slaves, and destroyed some fifty Turkish galleys. The Turks limped home with only thirteen ships.
Preparing for the battle, Holy League crews prayed the rosary, along with Christians throughout Europe, joining Pope Pius V and invoking the assistance of the Blessed Virgin. And today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7 in thanksgiving to the Blessed Mother for saving Christian Europe from the Mohammedan hordes.
On September 12, 1683, the troops of King Jan Sobieski of Poland were vastly outnumbered by the Mohammedans besieging the city under Kara Mustafa Pasha, but Sobieski defeated them with the largest cavalry charge in history. After his victory, the Catholic king gave a new twist to the old Roman phrase: Veni, vidi, Deus vicit, he said — “I came, I saw, God conquered.”
Sobieski arrived in the nick of time to save the city on September 11 — and it doesn’t take much imagination to surmise that the terrorist attacks on the anniversary in 2001 were carried out with the intention of opening the door to Islam’s final defeat of the West after so many failures.
The victories at Lepanto and Vienna saved Europe every bit as much as Charles Martel had saved her in 732 at Tours. Pretty soon we’re going to need another victory — and it appears it will have to be just as miraculous.

More Anniversaries

Of course we’ve all read of how the Vatican has celebrated this year the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther, who launched the Protestant Revolution and spawned tens of thousands of heretical sects that continue to multiply throughout the world to this day. No matter, Luther is now recognized in Rome as a “witness to the Gospel.”
And one hundred years ago, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, know to the world today as Lenin, launched the “October Revolution” that delivered Russia, and eventually the rest of Eastern Europe, into the hands of the Communist Party. A hundred years later, visitors can see the thousands of used statues of Lenin that are now stored in a vast dump outside of Moscow.
And on October 13, the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, whose statue is venerated throughout the world.
Our Lady left Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco with words that resonate hope to a wandering world:
“You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.
“Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to Hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them.”

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