- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The degree to which the Obama administration is responsible for sagging employment might be debatable, but the president and his team definitely deserve credit for the boom in job growth at political action committees. As the government expands in every direction and stimulus spending is dispensed like candy, an increasing number of lobbyists is being drawn to Washington to try to get a piece of the pie.

According to the Federal Election Commission, at the beginning of this year, the number of PACs was up to 4,611, a 9 percent increase over the previous year. These committees of unions, businesses and assorted other advocates and anti-advocates raised and doled out nearly $1.2 billion to help presidential and congressional candidates in the last two-year election cycle. The most significant growth was in committees formed by ideological or political groups, which grew last year by 23 percent to a total of 1,594 organizations. Many of the new PACs created last year “reflect the types of issues President Barack Obama and Congress, now largely controlled by Democrats, hope to tackle this year,” noted the Associated Press.

There is nothing inherently wrong with PACs. They enable groups - whether advocates for cancer treatment or baby care, or businesses or unions affected by prospective energy legislation or construction programs - to make their voices heard. The idea that a lonely individual can get a hearing or make an impact in Washington is rather quaint. This notion harkens back to the days when President Lincoln had calling hours for the public at the White House and died out just about then, we suspect.

But individuals still have influence when they group together with other like-minded citizens. The National Rifle Association’s influence on Capitol Hill is based on its membership of 4 million Americans who have banded together to defend the Second Amendment. There is power in numbers, and sometimes the numbers and the power are measured in dollars. With appropriate reporting, PACs help bring political attention to important issues. This process might not always be pretty, but it is democracy in action.

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