Occupy needs lobbyist

By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator

DEC. 2, 2011 -- Fifty years ago demonstrations and sit-ins worked because everyone knew they were for civil rights. Even if Occupy could agree on one purpose, Occupy wouldn't work because Congress no longer responds to the needs of the people. It only responds to the needs of the lobbyists. The people have lost control of their government.


When I ran for the Senate in 1966, I had one headquarters with no paid staff - all volunteers; no polling, no consultants, no yard signs, etc. - just TV and newspaper ads. I raised and spent about $467 thousand. To be elected the seventh time to the United States Senate in 1998, I had five headquarters, paid staff, pollsters, and had to raise $8.5 million. Eight and a half million dollars factors out to $30,000 a week, each week, every week, for six years.

Today, a contested race in South Carolina for the U. S. Senate would take about $12 to $15 million. In 1966, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Democratic Party, and lobbyists were not interested in the seat. Today, Senate committees, national committees like Americans for Tax Reform, lobbyists, are all interested in the seat. The national groups and lobbyists will want to take over your campaign - send in a campaign manager, consultants, pollsters and TV coaches. The United States Senate is organized now for the party -- not for the country.

Having served ten years in the State Legislature, four years as Governor, and thirty-eight years in the United States Senate, I know how politicians and Congress "wheel and deal." When first in the Senate, six Democrats and six Republicans took turns for supper each Wednesday evening. The wife of the designated Senator would prepare a light meal, with plenty of drinks, coats off, and we had a big time kidding each other. It made for fast friendships. When the Anchorage Airport was dedicated to Republican Senator Ted Stevens, Danny Inouye and I were the two speakers. If Ted really needed a vote and it didn't cost South Carolina, Ted had my vote.

No more. No Senators or Congressmen "wheeling and dealing." The lobbyists are in charge.

People can't understand the partisanship today. It's easily understood. Senators are raising money not only for themselves all the time but against Senators of the other party. I'll never forget a staffer asking me if I had heard about the fundraiser for my opponent. He said: "All of your Commerce Committee Republicans were there except Ted Stevens." In World War II, I learned if you looked out for your men, they would look out for you. I looked out for all of the members of my Committee. When Republican Senator Sununu came later and missed a vote -- even though we Democrats had prevailed -- as Chairman of the Committee I moved to reconsider, and on reconsideration we Democrats lost with Sununu voting. The Senators understood. But when I heard that all the Republicans except Ted were at my opponent's fundraiser and wanted to "get rid of me," I wanted to "get rid of them." No more friendships; no more "wheeling and dealing."

The lobbyists study the Senators like we trial lawyers study jurors. Lobbyists know everything about a Senator - his religion; where he gets his money; where his children are in school, and any special interests that could influence the Senator. Instead of Senators from both parties partying together every Wednesday night, lobbyists on K Street party together every night. The lobbyists do the "wheeling and dealing." The lobbyists know who can get your vote.

The Senator is interested in one thing -- money for re-election. The best morning show on TV is Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe. Scarborough is the best, but the most ridiculous statement he ever made was on the morning of November 22nd when he said "Grover Norquist has absolutely no power in Washington." Grover Norquist has the money power. He not only has the money to elect, but the money to un-elect. Norquist brags regularly how President George H. W. Bush was defeated in 1992 because he broke his pledge: "Read my lips. No new taxes." Today, Norquist controls the U. S. House of Representatives -- not John Boehner.

Senators are raising contributions constantly. When first in the Senate, we had a junior Senator read Washington's Farewell Address at 12:00 noon on Washington's Birthday and had votes later that afternoon. Today, Washington's Birthday has been merged with Lincoln's Birthday for a 10-day break to go to California and New York for fundraising. There are breaks every month for fundraisers, with the month of August off for fundraising. You're stationed with all the lobbyists in Washington, and there are breakfast, lunch and dinner fundraisers all the time. If you're not up for re-election, you're raising money for the other Senators. They will raise money for you when you're up. The cancer of money has spread, and the lobbyists have taken control. Lyndon Johnson couldn't lead the Senate today. Senators are listening to the lobbyists.

"There is an immediate solution to our need to pay down the debt and create jobs. Jobs can be created with Federal aid, but Federal aid can't build a strong economy. It takes private investment. To get Corporate America investing in the United States rather than China, Congress must take the tax benefit to off-shore jobs and give it to Corporate America to on-shore jobs - eliminate the corporate income tax and replace it with a 6% value added tax."

-- Hollings

Congress can regain control by passing a Constitutional amendment: "The Congress is authorized to regulate or control spending in Federal elections." That is exactly what we did in 1973 by a bi-partisan vote. We limited spending to so-much per registered voter in each State. But the Supreme Court reversed the law by equating money with speech. Madison never thought his First Amendment right of free speech would be limited by money. The Court has even given a fictional entity -- a corporation - political speech. Now, the 1012 election will be bought. We've tried every solution for thirty-five years, but the Court finds against it. Only a Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution would give the Congress the power to limit spending in campaigns. Three-fourths of the States are ready to approve. It will take time, but no other solution will suffice.

There is an immediate solution to our need to pay down the debt and create jobs. Jobs can be created with Federal aid, but Federal aid can't build a strong economy. It takes private investment. To get Corporate America investing in the United States rather than China, Congress must take the tax benefit to off-shore jobs and give it to Corporate America to on-shore jobs - eliminate the corporate income tax and replace it with a 6% value added tax. Last year the corporate tax produced revenues of $194.1 billion - a 6% VAT for 2010 would have produced $700 billion. Exemptions for the poor leaves billions to pay down the debt. Now $1 trillion in off-shore profits can be repatriated tax-free for Corporate America to invest and create millions of jobs.

Don't tell me the VAT is too complicated. 141 countries use the VAT to compete in globalization. Germany uses its 19% VAT to create jobs all over the United States. A VAT has no loopholes - instant tax reform! The tax lawyers and tax lobbyists will howl because it eliminates them. This tax cut provides billions to pay down the debt, creates millions of jobs, and the people regain control of their Congress.

We must enforce our trade laws not only to protect Corporate America's investment and protect the economy, but to protect the country. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Crowe, warned us in Congress in 1991 that we were depending too much on foreign favor for our defense needs. We have off-shored our defense industry. If President Obama enforced the Defense Production Act of 1950, it would create millions of jobs. I have been for a VAT and enforcement of our trade laws for years, but I don't have a lobbyist. If I had Grover Norquist, the VAT tax cut would pass unanimously. Without a lobbyist, I'm nothing, you're nothing, Occupy is nothing.


Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).

© 2011, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

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Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives.

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