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The Rise of the Lobbyists

I attended a talk last week by Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. Drutman was describing some of the findings in his new book, The Business of America Is Lobbying, which is a fascinating examination of how lobbying has grown and changed and come to dominate so much of lawmaking in Washington, D.C. We're used to hearing about the omnipresence of corporate lobbyists in D.C., but as Drutman points out, this is actually a pretty recent phenomenon. In the mid-20th century, major corporations generally didn't hire many people to represent them in the Capitol. They were plenty interested in politics and wanted to make sure that Congress didn't act in a way that was overly hostile to their interests, but for the most part, they didn't invest a lot to achieve that. Indeed, when Ralph Nader began advocating on behalf of consumers in the 1960s and pointing out the dangers of some cars, the auto industry didn't know how to defend itself andlashed out in bizarre ways.