and then she backpedals
After the DMCA was passed, rumors were abound that the entertainment and media industry heavily lobbied Congress to get the law passed, but those rumors were never substantiated. In a recent blog post, former RIAA head Hilary Rosen admitted that she expected influence and votes in return for her contributions. In her words:
"Damn straight when I gave a $1,000 or $2,000 to a lawmaker I wanted him to listen to my business proposition. And when I helped organized an event that raised $50,000 or $100,000 you bet I expected their vote. Why else do it? Now you can argue that the Member of Congress already took that position and my colleagues and I were just showing our support for their position. But how can the public really be sure of that?"
Wow. She broke the first rule of lobbying: Never admit you’re buying votes. And in her defense, I can’t be sure of the context of these comments. Was she speaking as a former RIAA head, as a US citizen and individual contributor, as a member of GLBT rights supporter Human Rights Campaign, or any other role she’s taken over the years.
All the same, these are damning comments coming from a former lobbyist. After talking about her role influencing laws, she turns a hard corner and makes the case for public financing of elections:
"Members of Congress are CONSUMED with raising money for their re-elections. It has become a burden. And no matter how cavalier they are about it in public, their hand wringing in private is certain. And anyone, including lobbyists, who lessen that anxiety, is considered a better friend than those that don’t. It is just a fact. No lobbying reforms will change that fact.
The ONLY answer to all of this is public financing of elections. Then lobbying becomes genuine “education” and relationships are built on respect and constituent interest. It seems so obvious."
I’ve been a fan of campaign finance reform for years, but I know the reality of that happening is grim. And if you’re not convinced about the need for campaign finance reform, candidates raised around $4 billion in the 2004 election cycle — all that money for seats in public office. I can think of many great ways to spend $4 billion…
Despite her former job, I’m proud of Hilary’s admission and hope that other lobbyists admit the need for greater reform than what’s currently being proposed in Congress. I especially hope that some day Hilary will come clean about her role in the creation of the DMCA and other RIAA-friendly policies, and that will come in the form of an interview with me exclusive to my web site.
One thing at a time though… Keep an eye out for more Lobbyist Stories during the Abramoff fallout.