Washington Matters


Stimulus Lobbying at Full Throttle


It's not the only game in Washington right now, but lobbying for planes, trains and automobiles and a whole lot more, even help for the catfish industry, is at a frenzied pitch as a giant stimulus is being drafted for quick action in January and February. It has K St. lobbying shops jumping with anticipation and increasing their billable hours for all types of stimulus supplicants.

With members throwing around numbers close to $1 trillion, it's no wonder that Capitol Hill is swarming with every conceivable lobbyist -- from high paid K St. professionals to mayors to trade groups to school teachers. I saw the lobbying masses the other day and the scene reminded me of the futures trading pit at the Chicago Board of Trade. Outside the Senate chamber during roll call votes, lobbyists competed with reporters trying to get the attention of members, even if only for a minute to make a pitch about the yet to be drafted stimulus.

"Telecom is stimulus," senator, a lobbyist from Verizon said in an open pitch for broadband-expansion funding. 

A large public infrastructure program is an inevitable element of the plan. Aid for road projects, light rail and airlines and airports is a good bet. Lobbyists reportedly want $10 billion for inter-city rail, $4 billion for airports and avionics equipment and unknown tens of billions for road projects. There'll also be funding for school repairs and construction and class room computers, plus several billion for green technology development and aid to budget-strapped states.

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Just about everybody is eyeing this as the ultimate Christmas tree, a spending bill uninhibited by concerns over the deficit. And everyone is arguing that their favorite projects are indeed stimulative. That is arguable in many cases. Opponents will question the merits of a deficit-busting plan, as Richard Rahn of the Cato Institute has done.  

Hospitals want money for modernization. Libraries want some direct aid, saying they can help people locate and learn about jobs. Pipeline manufacturers want loan guarantees added for building ethanol pipelines across several states. The travel industry has even dispatched lobbyists to win several million for marketing campaigns to promote tourism to the United States. Air conditioning manufacturers are angling for some tax breaks.

There's also a lobby group working for inclusion of funding for building more walking and bicycle paths and another group looking for an injection of aid for upkeep and improvements at public parks.

The catfish, you ask? The mostly gulf-coast catfish industry wants $50 million to prop up business, which it says has been devastated by high fish food prices, adding that several thousand jobs have been put at risk.

 




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