Saturday, January 21, 2006

Anti-Lobby Group Lobbies for End of Lobbying

From Witsend Daily – In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, a local anti-lobby lobbying firm, Downsize Me, Un-Incorporated, has stepped up its efforts to put an end to political lobbying, and inevitably themselves. The firm’s founder, Karl Smith, said, “Abramoff’s promise to name names has rocked the monetary bedrock of Corporate Hill, and we must seize this opportunity and help put an end to the legal practice of laundering money through our elected officials.”

The nonprofit firm, Downsize Me, Un-Inc., was founded in 1994 in response to the 1990s Lobbying-Firm Boom that has grown exponentially in the new millennium. Karl Smith, a former economics professor at Witsend University, had been an outspoken political activist in the early '90s and a champion of lobbying reform in Washington, D.C. The firm began as SPOC (Stop Prostituting Our Congressman) before changing its name to Downsize Me. The name, according to Smith, stemmed from an inside joke during the first few months of operation: “The biggest challenge of our firm was motivating our staff. How do you convince employees to work harder, when the harder they work means the sooner they’ll be out of work? Given the paradox, we had no other choice but to laugh at ourselves. A good sense of humor is a prerequisite in this line of work. Our firm’s mantra is ‘Looking forward to the day we no longer exist.’ It’s posted all over the workplace. To further boost morale, one of the employees came up with a t-shirt slogan, ‘Downsize Me,’ and the name has stuck ever since.”

In 1996, despite the resistance of lobbying firms, Downsize Me opened an office in Washington, D.C. “I was amazed at how embedded the lobbying firms were, in not only in the political but also the economic landscape of D.C.,” said Smith. “To be safe, we had to assume everyone was sleeping with everyone, and the last thing anyone wanted was an outside party to come break up their orgy. For the longest time we couldn’t get a building permit, nonprofit tax-exempt status, or a cup of coffee at the neighborhood Starbucks. Within six months, Downsize Me had become the laughing stock of D.C., an honor we lovingly embraced. The more we laughed at ourselves, the more motivated we became, knowing that one day we’ll have the last laugh. We even had a revolving door installed at our D.C. headquarters to parody the revolving doors of the congressmen on Corporate Hill, who join prestigious lobbying firms when they vacate their seat on the Hill. Of course, the inside-joke for us is that we will revolve from lobbyist to unemployed lobbyist.”
Downsize Me exit in D.C. Headquarters

According to a lobbyist (who has chosen to remain anonymous until the law requires full disclosure), “Downsize Me doesn’t realize the trickle-down effects of trying to take the lobbying out of politics. Thousands of lobbyists will join the ranks of the unemployed. Fewer laws will be passed in Congress, because congressmen will have to start doing their own homework. D.C.’s finest restaurants, hotels, and health spas will go belly up. God forbid, the last thing we need is a bunch of nonprofit people running around D.C., looking for Triple-A rates and tipping exactly 15% wherever they dine.”

Smith is not oblivious to the effects lobbying reform will have on the capital’s economic viability. “Not a day goes by when we don’t receive an anonymous death threat, a letter from a member of the business community, or a phone call from an irate caller telling us to get the hell out of town and go back to Witsend. Our staff has been trained on how to respond to these threats. Just smile, agree, and respond with the company mantra: ‘Like you, we look forward to the day we no longer exist.'”
When the news of the Abramoff scandal first broke, Downsize Me doubled its staff in D.C., while the Witsend staff has put in countless hours of overtime investigating and chasing the money trail. “Everyone tied to Corporate Hill is washing their hands of dirty money, donating to charity any funds remotely connected to Abramoff. Nobody is immune,” said Smith. “Even some funding we’ve received can be traced back to Abramoff. In 2000, we received a $5000 donation from a prominent Witsend businessman who received the money from a fellow businessman and teammate on the Witsend Polo Club who received the funds in question from a bet he wagered with a Witsend plastic surgeon who received the money from a pharmaceutical representative who received the money from a lobbying firm who represents a client in the pharmaceutical industry. We had no choice but to donate the money to our favorite nonprofit organization, Downsize Me, Un-Inc., whose existence is in imminent peril - or so we can only hope.”


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