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Pockets of Influence in Washington
What do shoplifters and members of Congress have in common? Tailor-made clothing.
Like a shoplifter's long coat, the suits of many lawmakers come with an astonishing array of inside pockets that hold surprising volumes of loot. We already know about various conduits that politicians have crafted to funnel cash into their election campaigns, but USA Today recently reported that our congressional stalwarts have also created a series of less-obvious pockets for stashing special-interest influence money.
The newspaper analyzed some 3,000 donations that lobbyists made in 2008 under an obscure category called "honorary expenses." These are unrestricted contributions that lobbyists make to outside groups in "honor" of top Washington officials. Unsurprisingly, the pockets in which the gifts are tucked are directly connected to the honorees -- and usually have been created by them.
Please contact your local newspaper editor if you want to read Jim Hightower's column in your hometown paper.