Using social relationships as leverage, in Washington

My favorite post from today comes from Ezra Klein, a blogger for the Washington Post, speaking about healthcare ("It's Not the Money, It's the Relationships"). The healthcare industry snaps up Senate Finance committee aides as soon as they retire, so that they can lobby for the industry. Because we are social creatures this makes for very effective lobbying, because we can't turn down our friends or refuse their calls.
The graphic is attached to this article, where we learn that the industry is spending $1.4 million a day to lobby Congress and is doing so with the help of a raft of onetime insiders. At times, the efforts at influence peddling border on the comic: One June 10 meeting saw Max Baucus's aides sitting down with two of Max Baucus's former chiefs of staff, who were representing different groupings of health-care industry interests. ... Refusing to return the calls of favored staffers and colleagues goes against every social grain in our bodies. It should be easy to separate professional responsibilities and personal feelings. But it isn't. ... One of the secrets about lobbying in Washington is that money doesn't buy access. It buys people who already have access. And that makes it much more insidious.
Maybe we should subsidize former aides to work in any field but lobbying. A ban on lobbying for a non-trivial period of time (e.g. longer than 2 years) would also be nice.

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