obbyists had their biggest year ever in 2009, with expenditures of $3.5 billion, or $1.3 million for each hour that Congress was in session, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The total number of officially registered lobbyists in Washington is now about 11,000, down from a peak of nearly 15,000 in 2007, due in part to new restrictions. But that number doesn’t come close to reflecting reality. Current law requires someone to “register” as a lobbyist only if he or she spends at least 20 percent of the time lobbying. And yet much of the real work of lobbying is not done by registered lobbyists at all but by the rainmaker lawyers and former politicians, like Vernon Jordan and Tom Daschle, who “counsel” private-sector companies on how to thread the needle and achieve their objectives. If you throw in all the people doing “government outreach” and “congressional liaison” at the countless trade associations and advocacy groups, the total number of people in Washington working to influence the government in one way or another actually runs closer to 90,000. There were 2,500 registered lobbyists working on financial-industry reform—mainly against it—or roughly five for each member of Congress. The biggest single lobbying effort last year was mounted by the United States Chamber of Commerce (an opponent of much, if not most, of Obama’s agenda), which by itself shelled out $144 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s more than the total annual payroll for every elected official in Congress. The mismatch in firepower is immense. The lobbyists have so much, and members of Congress can be swayed by so little. Former senator John Breaux, of Louisiana, an unabashed deal-maker, once declared that while his vote could not be bought it could occasionally be rented. He is now a lobbyist.
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I have just spent the morning at Jeff Pulver’s 140conferenceSF, and I have purposely posted this to amplify because I want to tell the world what a fascinating conference Jeff puts together, so if you get a chance to attend in another location, you will.( I know everyone will check out Amplify today because it just released a bunch of new features.)
This conference contains a mind-expanding number of smart people speaking not about Twitter itself, its apps and monetization plans, and all the topics you have already heard about, but how Twitter has affected and been used by ordinary people: a farmer, a yoga teacher, a musician, a woman who animates the Torah for modern living.
And @dom spoke about how Twitter has grown globally—with small countries like Singapore and the Netherlands achieving enormous per capita penetration, and many global users still confined to SMS. Fascinating to see how places like Malaysia have so many users, and how Democratic Republic of Congo is so poor that no one can afford to use Twitter.
You missed a good one.@PamSlim is speaking this afternoon, too.
Francine Hardaway, Ph D
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