Occupy K Street

Ari Berman writes: If you want to understand how the top 1 percent have accumulated such power in American politics, look no further than Washington’s K Street lobbying corridor. Wall Street has long been the dominant player in the capital. “The banks,” Senator Dick Durbin said in 2009, “are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

The financial sector has spent more money on campaign contributions and lobbying than any other sector of the economy—$4.6 billion on lobbying since 1998 according to Open Secrets. This year, commercial banks and securities and investment firms have spent over $82 million on lobbying, employing over 1,000 lobbyists.

Given these facts, it makes sense that the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to K Street. Since October 1, demonstrators have gathered in MacPherson Square, their numbers and visibility growing in recent days. Yesterday Harvard professor Larry Lessig, one of the preeminent advocates of true campaign finance reform, spoke to Occupy K Street. Nation intern Cal Colgan attended the talk and passed on some notes.

“Forget the 99 percent,” Lessig said yesterday. “We are the 99.95 percent of people who have never maxed out in a Congressional election campaign by giving the maximum amount. It is .05 percent of America who have given $2500 in the last election to a congressional candidate, .05 percent, and Congress listens to them.” These are the same people who pay lobbyists to convince lawmakers to gut crucial regulations and oppose new ones.

Said Lessig:

It is the first time in American history where we have seen a collapse followed by no fundamental reregulation of the financial services sector because [the banks] have the power to block change from either the Democrats or the Republicans, because they can say to the Democrats or to the Republicans, “If you don’t back us, we guarantee you will lose in the next election.” They are the largest single group of contributors to Congressional elections of any in the country, and they hold this country hostage because of that power, because of that corruption.

Lessig called on the demonstrators to make confronting this legalized system of corruption a central organizing principle of the growing movement, and for the Left to unite with populist Americans on the Right who are similarly frustrated by the stranglehold of money and politics.

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4 thoughts on “Occupy K Street

  1. Susan

    off-topic, but you seemed to have drop any coverage of Libya:

    The destruction of Sirte
    19 October 2011

    The Libyan city of Sirte is being systematically destroyed by National Transitional Council “rebel” fighters and NATO fighter planes. The operation stands as a monumental war crime, for which primary responsibility rests with the leading forces behind the military intervention in Libya—US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    Sirte has been under siege for weeks. TNC forces have prevented all supplies from entering the city, including food, medicines, and other basic necessities. NATO bombs have rained down, together with a heavy and indiscriminate bombardment by TNC mortars, tank shells, and rockets. Basic infrastructure—including water, electricity, and sewerage systems—has been destroyed as part of the calculated effort to trigger a humanitarian crisis in the city and terrorise its inhabitants into submission.

    Every building in Sirte, including apartment blocks, homes, hospitals, schools, and other civilian structures, has either been levelled or severely damaged by the “rebel” forces trying to finally take the city. Militiamen are looting homes, cars, and shops, with truckloads of residents’ stolen possessions now leaving Sirte every day.

    Lévy’s stance on Sirte underscores the political function of the entire layer of upper-middle class “liberal” proponents of humanitarian war—mouthpieces for imperialist aggression.


  2. scottindallas

    I have to question the article Susan linked to. Maybe it’s a petty point, but how do you burn a stone building to the ground as the author claims? North African buildings aren’t made of wood nor combustibles.

    I don’t like BHLevy, but that doesn’t make up for the factual flaws in the reporting.

  3. Alex J.

    Occupy K Street? Surely. Campaign finance reform? Talk about missing the point. The problem is unaccountable civil service bureaucrats and unaccountable voters. Politicians are already responsive to the voters, the voters have no reason to demand that their politicians act wisely. And so the bureaucrats can dig in and work on getting those K street jobs by handing out favors.

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