A corporate lobbyist recently admitted to the New York Times: “Everybody is embarrassed about it. Although not so embarrassed that they don’t do it.”
“It” is the scandalous copulation between corporate cash and willing legislators that’s taking place regularly in such secretive rendezvous resorts as the Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton. Lawmakers and lobbyists don’t like to talk about what they’re doing (and cer tainly don’t want voters or the media to see them), for these getaways are explicit, tawdry examples of the prostitution of our legislative system.
If you had wandered innocently into the tony Four Seasons hotel of Vail in early January, you could’ve witnessed one of these group gropes. Assorted lobbyists, including one who represents the utility giant PPL Corporation, had slipped tens of thousands of dollars into the political pockets of Rep. Ed Whitfield and four other House members for the pleasure of rubbing elbows, wining and dining, and whispering sweet legislative nothings to them for hours.
At one dinner, the cozy group dug into juicy wagyu steaks and swilled $60-a-bottle wine as they played scratch-my-back, Washington-style politics. Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, was especially popular with the utility lobbyists, for he chairs the House committee that handles legislation affecting — guess who? — utilities! And Ed must’ve had a good time in Vail, because when he returned to Washington, he promptly introduced a bill to let PPL and other electric utilities build additional polluting, coalburning power plants — an industry favor that would overturn health protections recently approved by the Obama administration.
Sure, the public approval rating for Congress is at historic lows, but the Vail experience of Whitfield and the others shows that lawmakers can be loveable — for a price.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.