Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back When a Republican Was Against Corruption

Robert R. Canfield. Fat-Cat Lobbyists Make Your Laws. New York: Vantage Press, 1968.

Former State Senator and Illinois Crime Commission member Robert Canfield described how influential the insurance, race track, gun industry, banks, and savings and loans were in protecting and advancing their interest in Illinois government during the 1960s and before. As a Republican, he was upset to see business lobbyists using the Red scare rhetoric in denouncing public programs as advancing socialist ideals.

Canfield wrote how a U.S. Senator told him that the key to success was getting fact cats and their financial contributions supporting a candidacy. Canfield claimed that fat cats owned that Senator.

Canfield argued that the insurance lobbyists were the most organized and influential of lobbyists. He wrote the industry advocates had their offices in the Senate President Pro temp’s office. The nursing home lobbyists were in the Capitol office next door and the trucker’ lobbyists were two doors down. Various lobbyists had office scattered amongst the State Senate floor, including at times the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber of Commerce usually had five or five lobbyists operating out of Senate offices. They supplied Senators with arguments for supporting their issues and “a generous supply of liquid beverages.”

When the Illinois House passed lobbyist regulations in 1965, the President Pro Tem led Senators into not adopting lobbyist regulations.

Many gangsters were behind the truckers lobbying, according to the Illinois Crime Investigating Commission. The truckers’ lobbyists felt that most legislators “have their price, and often a small one,” according to the author.

The truckers lobby used state employees, furniture, and telephones. They also determined which legislator met their approval to sit on the Motor Vehicles Committee in both the House and Senate.

Legislators were known to attend poker games with lobbyists. Legislators inevitably left such games as winners.

In 1965, several legislative meetings with lobbyists were secretly recorded and the tapes delivered to a Chicago newspaper. The press printed how $50,000 was given by lobbyists to legislators for their actions on legislation. No legislator was even charged for a crime from these tapes. In fact, all 24 Senators and 38 Representatives mentioned on these tapes who sought reelection won their races.

On the other hand, all legislators who created the Illinois Crime Investigating Committee were defeated for reelection with the gambling lobby supporting their opponents.

The illegal gambling lobby influences legislators. A bill revoking liquor licenses for allowing gambling was killed. A bill to allow one jai lai establishment in Chicago was passed late at night without advance notice.

Lobbyists for big banks often fought on legislation with lobbyists representing branch banking interests. Both accused the other of supplying prostitutes to legislators. Illinois was one of the few states that didn’t allow branch banking.

Lobbyists for small loan companies were influential in obtaining the right to make short term loans at interest rates higher than anyone else could legally charge. These were businesses known to have had gangster involvement. One company was found guilty of bribing a state official.

The gun lobby is described in this book as having been strong and threatening. They insisted on support for their legislation or else they would use their political skills to defeat legislators they didn’t like. They also accused those who favored gun laws as akin to favoring socialism.

Lobbyists representing industrial interests kept taxes low or non-existent on stocks, bonds, securities, deposit funds, and inheritances.

One State Senator received commissions from selling coal. He was not actually involved in any of the transactions and didn’t even know who the buyers were.

The Illinois legislature was known to pass few or no bills for several months. Then, in its last few days, it would pass several hundred bills.

The author concludes that “representative self-government is the finest and best of all forms of government, but it can only survive and be effective in the forces that seek to contaminate it are exposed, recognized, and removed.”


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10:52 PM  
Blogger Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny said...

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9:23 AM  

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