Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has proposed a tax that she said would "end lobbying as we know it."
According to a realclearpolitics.com poll of polls, Warren is in pretty much of a dead heat with former VP Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination at 24% to Biden's 26.2%.
Calling it a tax on "excessive lobbying," Warren is proposing that any corporation that spends over $500,000 per year on lobbying the government pay a 35% tax on every dollar spent over $500,000, 60% on every dollar spent over $1 million, and 75% on every dollar spent over $5 million.
In a post on her campaign site, Warren outlined the process she argues subverts agency decisions thanks to well-heeled influencers attempting to "grind public interest work to a halt."
"Regulatory agencies are only empowered to implement public interest rules under authority granted by legislation already passed by Congress," she wrote. "So how is it that lobbyists are able to kill, weaken, or delay so many important efforts to implement the law?," she asked, providing her take on a regulatory process familiar to any FCC watcher.
"Often they accomplish this goal by launching an all out assault on the process of writing new rules — informally meeting with federal agencies to push for favorable treatment, burying those agencies in detailed industry comments during the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and pressuring members of Congress to join their efforts to lobby against the rule. If the rule moves forward anyway, they’ll argue to an obscure federal agency [OMB] tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of agency rules [per the Paperwork Reduction Act] that the rules are too costly, and if the regulation somehow survives this onslaught, they’ll hire fancy lawyers to challenge it in court."
Warren does not mention that there are also companies and other groups spending millions to try and preserve rules and regulations, whose efforts (the Supreme Court in Citizens United has signaled such efforts are "speech") could also be curtailed.
Based on Center for Responsive Politics lobbying expenditures over the past 10 years, she said, among individual companies, both AT&T and Comcast would be in the top 10 spenders and, thus, would have had to pay over $100 million apiece had her tax been in effect over that period.
She said the goal of the tax is to reduce the incentive for "lobbying excessively" as well as raise money to "fight back against this kind of onslaught" by putting the proceeds from the tax into a "Lobbying Defense Trust Fund" which she said would be used to "direct a surge of resources to Congress and federal agencies" to combat corporate lobbyists who were "experts at killing widely popular policies behind closed doors."
Warren said the tax will make it significantly more expensive for companies like Comcast and others to hire "armies of lobbyists" and made it clear the tax was not about raising money but about reducing the influence of that money on politics. "Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax revenue down the road — but in that case, all the better."
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