Feed on

Actually, we don’t get to see it! They just pick up the factory and machine and take it to a private coffee shop.

On the agenda over espressos and lattes, according to more than a dozen lobbyists and political operatives who have taken part in the sessions, have been front-burner issues like Wall Street regulation, health care rules, federal stimulus money, energy policy and climate control — and their impact on the lobbyists’ corporate clients.

But because the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure on the visitors’ log that the White House releases as part of its pledge to be the “most transparent presidential administration in history.”

The off-site meetings, lobbyists say, reveal a disconnect between the Obama administration’s public rhetoric — with Mr. Obama himself frequently thrashing big industries’ “battalions” of lobbyists as enemies of reform — and the administration’s continuing, private dealings with them.

Attempts to put distance between the White House and lobbyists are not limited to meetings. Some lobbyists say that they routinely get e-mail messages from White House staff members’ personal accounts rather than from their official White House accounts, which can become subject to public review. Administration officials said there were some permissible exceptions to a federal law requiring staff members to use their official accounts and retain the correspondence.”

Aside from the obvious fact that American democracy is a joke, I take something else away from this. First, it is wrong (in my view) to paint Obama as evil for this. This is the way the game is played, and seems to have been played for decades. We are a bunch of dopes for thinking it could have been any different. Second, and more important, is that I wished the Executive Office would learn a lesson from their own behavior. Look, we have rules on the books mandating that the public be privy to “official” White House correspondence. Traditional members of the congregation of Government simply believe on faith that by writing down rules and crafting legislation we will get the intended outcomes. But that is absurd. People respond to incentives within every institutional setting they find themselves in.

But aren’t “rules” good things? We will discuss this concept in future posts. The point here is that merely crafting a rule or enacting a piece of legislation is no guarantee that it will do the job intended. And the irony is that the very rule-makers themselves behave in precisely this way, yet confidently go around proclaiming that their wise legislation and leadership will save the day. So, this makes them look bad – it’s not that they are secretly playing ball with lobbyists (despite how that irks me), it is that they are either too stupid or too smart (I am not sure which one) to recognize the hypocrisy of their rule making and rule breaking behavior.

HT to Chris M.

One Response to “Inside the Sausage Grinder, or the Essence of Rules”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    Hehe, knew you would love that one. And that story is even coming from the NYT! 😉

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