The appointment of former Senator Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services brought a few questions. First, a non-diabetic friend of mine was upset because President-Elect Obama had previously pledged not to appoint any lobbyists to his team. Ok. I missed that one.
Then my friend provided me with the following information - Daschle is "a Senior Policy Advisor with the K Street law firm Alston & Bird. Health care interests, including CVS Caremark, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, Abbott Laboratories and HealthSouth, are among the firm's lobbying clients." In addition, his wife Linda "is one of Washington's top lobbyists. Her lobbying clients over the past year included American Airlines, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Senate lobbying records show."
Hmm. What did Obama say in his “promises” and how does this appointment jive with those assertions?
Another friend posted a link to Obama’s transition website that actually asks us for input about change (www.change.gov). There is a link to submit your own person story and another to sign up to lead a healthcare discussion and to potentially have Tom Daschle attend. What innovative ideas!
Still, back to the original question: Are all lobbyists bad? Admittedly, my understanding of lobbyists is that they are frequently paid by firms selling a product to support their initiatives (good, bad or ugly). My perception is that they are sometimes in the consumer’s best interest and often they are not. The lobbyists are trying to pave the way for the company in some way shape or form – to aid their profit margin, their bottom line whether it is in our best interest or not.
However, the more I think about it, the more the words “lobby” or “lobbyist” do not have to be bad words. After all, I can be perceived as a lobbyist. I lobby for plenty of diabetic issues and I am not being paid some huge salary, bonus or stock. My motivation is really very altruistic. I want to use my voice and do something positive with my knowledge about the disease I’ve been almost privileged to have for the last 32 years.
So, is it possible to make lobbying a “good” thing for us mere mortals? Or do lobbyists only support big companies and their profit margins? Can someone like me get to the floor of the legislature and use my voice without being hog tied to the profits of some large insulin manufacturer or glucose testing company? Can I speak for the people who aren’t able? Can I get anything accomplished for the benefit of diabetics (or those with other chronic diseases)? I think of all the things I would like to accomplish, all the “noise” I’d like to make and wonder if it is possible that there be any altruism in the job of “lobbyist”? What I could do with such a title!
Doris J. Dickson