President Obama made many lofty promises during both the 2008 presidential campaign and his first year in office. One such promise was his vow to reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington. In fact, at a 2007 campaign event Obama said, ““One year from now, we have the chance to tell all those corporate lobbyists that the days of them setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race – and I’ve won.”
But with the recent release of the President’s 2013 budget it is clear that, just like many of his previous pledges, he has no problem breaking this promise. Not only is he intent on using lobbyists to advance his administration’s agenda, but wants to use taxpayer dollars to do so.
Most budgets contain language specifically outlawing the use of federal funds for any kind of lobbying efforts. Typical language prohibits money for publicity or propaganda purposes and for the creation or distribution of any pamphlet, publication, radio or television presentation designed to lobby for or against pending legislation.
This language is also supposed to prevent administrations from allocating federal funds to local “do-gooder” groups who have historically lobbied for increasing the government’s involvement in Americans’ everyday lives. When these groups are successful in pushing their agendas, it usually means higher taxes, more government oversight and less individual freedom.
However, Obama’s recent budget strips three anti-lobbying provisions from last year’s appropriations bill. This means that the administration can use taxpayer dollars to advocate publicly for a bill or position – through television and radio ads, pamphlets, and presentations – or fund third-party groups to do the same.
The administration’s track record with using taxpayer dollars to advance its big government agenda is troubling to say the least. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already used taxpayer dollars to lobby for a program that would allocate funds to state and local communities to implement strategies limiting Americans’ consumption of food deemed unhealthy by policymakers. Even though HHS is prohibited from engaging in lobbying activities, grant money was awarded to the state health department in Wisconsin to hire lobbyists to push a “wellness” agenda at the local level.
With rapidly rising gas prices expected to hit $6 a gallon in the near future, Americans want their hard earned tax dollars to go towards creating jobs, reinvigorating the economy and getting our housing market back on track not advancing the president’s social agenda. The president should stop treating federal money like his very own limitless credit card and start keeping his promises to the American people. He can begin by holding himself to that early campaign pledge and prohibit federal funding of lobbying efforts.