USA Today makes a big splash about how how lobbyists are spending money on legislators.
Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers — the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn't always require fundraising details to be reported.
I had to put the emphasis on the word legally. The paper had to throw that in there because what they are doing is legal. The emphasis of the story is that something pernicious is going on. It's an old journalism trick, when you want to make something look bad, you throw in a lot of "Real Estate records show that..."
I know it is fashionable to bash the lobbyists, especially in an election year, but Congress does make laws that have an impact on businesses, and so it's OK with me if all the hardware stores in the country pitch in a few bucks to hire someone to represent their views in Washington so that their business doesn't get creamed.
Of course, the people in congress know that the laws they pass have a real impact. After all, they wrote the "lobby reform" that allows the money to be spent in the way it now is, in spite of what they may have said about it during some press conference. I don't think they are quite as shocked as USA Today wants all of us to be that money is still being spent on lobbying.