by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:
In theory, Americans should be proud of their national capital and all the important work that gets done there. In theory.
In reality, our nation’s capital is an utter cesspool of self-serving, unethical and unaccountable parasites. We all know it and, even worse, it’s probably a hundred times more grotesque than we can imagine. A distressingly high number of people attracted to this swamp don’t go there to do good public work or help the American people. They go in order to enrich themselves at our expense.
A particularly degenerate strain of D.C. cretin is the lobbyist. These people swarm into Washington to influence the purse-strings of the U.S. government and funnel as much American treasure as possible in the direction of their clients, including Wall Street oligarchs, defense contractors and barbaric foreign monarchies like Saudi Arabia. We’re told that Washington D.C. exists specifically to protect and benefit the American public, yet the average citizen is the one constituency which has virtually no actual representation there. Helping the vulnerable doesn’t pay very well.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve be reading political stories describing the “beltway buzz” in the aftermath of the Paul Manafort and Rick Gates indictments. I’ve found these articles quite instructive. The common theme is that hordes of the shady crooks who operate in D.C., and add absolutely zero value to society, are panicking that their gravy train of legalized corruption may be coming to an end.
To see what I mean, let’s examine two recently published articles. First from Politico:
Washington lobbyists who represent foreign powers have taken comfort for decades in the fact that the Justice Department rarely goes after them for potentially breaking the law. That all changed on Monday.
The two-tier justice system works quite nicely for D.C. crooks.
The news of Tony Podesta’s resignation from his namesake firm and indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates sent K Street scrambling, as lobbyists rushed to make sure they’re in compliance with the rules. The developments also renewed calls for Congress to pass legislation beefing up the Justice Department’s enforcement of the law, which lawmakers in both parties have derided for lacking teeth.
“Firms are going to be even more careful than they have been in the past in the foreign lobbying arena,” said Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader who’s now a lobbyist at Squire Patton Boggs, where his foreign clients have included Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Prosecutions of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act — which requires lobbyists who represent foreign governments, political parties and other groups seeking to influence American foreign policy to register with the Justice Department — are rare. And it’s not clear whether the Justice Department will follow special counsel Robert Mueller’s lead and start cracking down on foreign lobbying violations.
The DOJ unit dedicated to enforcing FARA is small, and has focused in the past on prodding lobbyists to comply with the law voluntarily, rather than going after them by pressing criminal charges. Mueller’s willingness to indict Manafort and Gates instead of just hounding them to file has struck fear into lobbyists that they could be next.
If you’re a D.C. power player, you get asked politely to follow the law. Must be nice.
“It used to be [that the Justice Department would work with you to become compliant,” said another foreign lobbyist, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “Now there’s a fear that they’ll just prosecute you.”
Oh, the horror. They might “just prosecute you” like a common peasant.
But the bar for criminal prosecution is high. Under the law, prosecutors can go after lobbyists only for willful violation of the law — a tough standard to prove.
“Policy makers are here to serve the interests of the American people, so we need to know when someone is pushing the priorities of a foreign interest,” Grassley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and again how lobbyists of foreign principals skirt existing disclosure laws to conceal their clients’ identities and agendas.”
But Lott said he wouldn’t hold his breath waiting for Congress to pass the legislation, especially with President Donald Trump still pushing to move a tax reform bill by the end of the year.
“There’s not much of anything happening right now in Congress, to be perfectly frank,” Lott said.
Of course not. Criminals run the place and they’re not going to prosecute themselves.
Now let’s turn to a few nuggets from a similarly themed BuzzFeedpiece:
WASHINGTON – The threat of serving hard time for failing to disclose foreign lobbying work is rattling Washington’s multi-billion dollar influence industry following Monday’s 12-count indictment against Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.
And although the charges have largely been seen as a blow to the White House, Monday’s actions by special prosecutor Robert Mueller also sent shivers down the spines of Washington’s lobbyists, both Democrats and Repulicans.
“It’s a swampy place, and the swampy stink knows no partisan allegiance,” said one senior Democratic congressional aide.
A September 2016 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general identified a series of problems with how DOJ had handled FARA cases in the past. There was disagreement within the department about what types of cases should be prosecuted, the inspector general’s office found, and the FBI felt DOJ attorneys were slow in reviewing FARA cases and reluctant to sign off on criminal charges. The report also found that the FBI and local federal prosecutors reported feeling frustrated at being overruled by attorneys from the National Security Division about cases that they believed were worth pursuing.
Hold on a minute, what the heck is the “National Security Division”and why is it preventing rank and file FBI agents from prosecuting criminal lobbyists?
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