Bill Moyers is joined by the heads of two independent watchdog groups keeping an eye on government as well as on powerful interests seeking to influence it. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics and OpenSecrets.org, and Danielle Brian, who runs the Project on Government Oversight, talk to Bill about the importance of transparency to our democracy, and their efforts to scrutinize who’s giving money, who’s receiving it, and most importantly, what’s expected in return.
Here's a snippet:
BILL MOYERS: The cliché is that you have to pay to play. What does that mean to the two of you?
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: It means that organizations and mostly we’re talking about corporations, understand that Washington is often standing in the way of bigger profits for them. And so they see this as a perfectly legal, entirely common way for their companies to shape policy legislation, even regulation coming out of Washington that will ameliorate the damage and ultimately enhance their ability to turn a profit.
And so private interests if they are not successful in achieving their legislative agenda in Congress have other opportunities, many bites at the apple, to try to water down regulations that they see as onerous or to otherwise tweak laws as they are actually being implemented by the agencies.
Look at this headline: “After Aa Powerful Lobbyist Intervenes, EPA Reverses Stance on Polluting Texas County's Water.” That's a story from the news organizations ProPublica reporting that a big energy company wants permission from Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, for a large-scale mining project in Texas that would pollute a pristine supply of drinking water.
So the EPA says no, can't have it. The big company hires Heather Podesta who's a big time lobbyist, a big time fundraiser for Democrats who was married at the time to another big Washington Democratic fixer named Tony Podesta, who used to be president of the liberal organization People for the American Way.
Through their connections these two have become the king and queen of influence peddling. Lo and behold, some months after the industry hires Heather Podesta, EPA reverses itself and the company gets an exemption and is allowed to pollute the aquifer. To hell with the public health. This is routine, isn't it?
A full transcript of the show follows below the fold...