Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lobbying and The Maximum Contribution

Lobbying and The Maximum Contribution

“Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted”

-Bruce Springsteen

Lobbying is not fashionable these days. I called a lobbyist friend and asked him if the media bashing was bothering him. He said, "no matter how much they complain, the lawmakers need us around."

He is probably right. Lobbyists know their way around government.

Rick Robinson knows about lobbyists and knows the political game. For the past 30 years, he's been a big time player in Washington and Kentucky. Rickwas legislative director for Congressman Jim Bunning and ran for Congress when Bunning moved up to the Senate.

Now he is a novelist. The Maximum Contribution (Headline Books publisher) is loosely based on Rick's experience as a candidate and inside player.

Rick and I go back a long ways. We became friends in student government at Eastern Kentucky University and shared an office when he was the student member of the Board of Regents.

He had pictures of Reagan on his desk. I had pictures of Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. We became close anyway.

His run for Congress was a rare time when I campaigned for a Republican. In fact, I think it was the only time.

I asked him to add a note for my book about Ernie Fletcher. He wrote, "I'm glad that SOB wasn't writing when I ran for office."

I printed it. It's on the back cover of the book.

He asked me to give a quote for his book. A no win situation for me. I didn't want to give the same style of quote that he did and I don't really like to read novels. I'm a non fiction kind of guy. I live in a reality show world.

I liked his novel. A lot.

Once I started, I literally did not put down The Maximum Contribution. I stayed up half the night to finish it.

It is a political thriller and an insider's guide to how Washington works. I don't want to give away the plot but Rudy Maxa, a former investigative reporter for the Washington Post, said, "Rick Robinson has vividly captured the essence of the deals that make or more than likely... break so many DC politicians."

Rick's gritty but realistic insight is how the game is played.

Lobbyist bashing has become a popular sport. I'm not sure who to blame. I don't know if I blame the lobbyists for trying to influence legislation or the elected officials for allowing themselves to be influenced.

Your view on lobbying probably depends on what the lobbyist is asking for.

I don't like the payday loan industry and think their lobbyists are probably slime. I make most of my income from setting up structured settlement annuities for injured people. I view their lobbyists as outstanding legislative representatives who are doing God's work.

It's all a matter of where you sit and where you draw your income.

Some lobbying groups are completely out of control. The groups that represent credit card companies have had their way in Washington. They passed "bankruptcy reform" which was a classic case of reverse Robin Hood. It took from the poor to give to the rich.

The Maximum Contribution's subplot revolves around an obscure tax break allowing businesses to set up off shore operations. I don't know why big corporations should be rewarded for taking jobs and resources OUT of the United States but I am sure some high powered lobbyist can tell me why.

Read the book. It is a fun read and gives insight into political lies that can leave us lost and brokenhearted.

Don McNay is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at

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