PolitiFact Florida on Lobbyists and Jeb Channeling His Inner "Veto Corleone"
Is more money spent on lobbying in this country than on political campaigns? And did Jeb Bush really compare himself to "Veto Corleone?" For the answer to those questions, we talk with Amy Hollyfield of PolitiFact Florida.
The recent indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has thrust into the news not only allegations that he hid sexual encounters from decades ago, but just exactly how did he raise $1.7 million to pay off his accuser? After all, his career as a teacher and a Congressman didn't pay that much. But his later activities as a lobbyist turned into a gold mine. So says political pundit George Will.
He told Fox News last week that "we spend more money on lobbying than we do on campaigns. They become important precisely because they know how complicated the government is, where the levers and pulleys and widgets are, to make it work. And he made the most of that value."
So, is there more money is spent in this country lobbying than all the money that flows during elections?
In every election cycle since 2008, more money has gone into lobbying at the federal level than into political campaigns. The campaign totals include money tied to candidates, the parties, Super PACs and so-called dark money that largely goes unreported. As this table shows, the pattern holds even in presidential election years. The dollar amounts are in billions.
2-Year-Cycle Lobbying Campaigns
2008 $6.17 $5.286
2010 $7.02 $3.632
2012 $6.64 $6.286
2014 $6.48 $3.769
This data only covers federal spending. A lot of money goes into lobbying and elections at the state and local levels, too. But while there are some numbers on campaign activities in the states, there is little reporting on lobbying. So we’re limited to comparing the dollars at the federal level. Political scientist Jeffrey Berry at Tufts University said lobbying firms only have to disclose legislative lobbying and even that doesn't necessarily include everything in a firm's contract with a client. Berry said a lot of activity flies beneath the radar. "What goes on at corporate headquarters to support the Washington lobbying office is generally unreported," Berry said. "For trade associations, what’s reported typically does not include what member firms do on instructions from the staff of the trade group. And the list goes on."
Next, let's talk about Jeb Bush, who's touring the hustings in New Hampshire. A couple of weeks ago Bush said he was well-known for using the "line-item veto" at his disposal when he was governor.
"They called me Veto Corleone, which was something I was quite proud of," Bush said, channeling his inner Marlon Brando character in The Godfather.
He's doing this to point out that he would focus again as president on cutting wasteful spending. He added that he vetoed 2,500 line items totaling $2 billion.
The ruling: True.
John Thrasher, then speaker of the House, dubbed Bush "Veto Corleone" after the fictional mafia don (spelled Vito Corleone) for his liberal use of the power. Thrasher, who is now president of Florida State University, confirmed to PolitiFact Florida that he coined the nickname, which seemed to be something of a friendly dig.
Thrasher’s collegial relationship with Bush was apparent in 2000, when Thrasher brought the budget to Bush’s office while wearing a white lab coat and a stethoscope "to make sure the governor has a heart." Bush answered by approving a couple of Thrasher’s pet projects, then chopping another $313.7 million out of appropriations. Here’s a look at how much Bush vetoed from each year’s budget:
Year Total State Budget Amount Bush Vetoed
1999 $48.6 billion $313 million*
2000 $51 billion $313.7 million
2001 $48.3 billion $288.8 million
2002 $50.4 billion $107 million
2003 $53.5 billion $33 million
2004 $57.3 billion $349 million
2005 $64.7 billion $180 million
2006 $73.9 billion $448.7 million
* The state Supreme Court ruled a $16 million veto in 1999 unconstitutional.
We should note that if Bush wins the presidency, he likely won’t get to whack as much. A president doesn’t have a line-item veto and has to either accept or reject an entire piece of legislation.
So maybe Bush is making the voters an offer they can refuse.