We deserve more than “odd ducks”

We deserve more than "odd ducks"

I could call the average Washington lobbyist many things, but naive isn’t one of them. Elected officials of all stripes offer up soothing balms about their dedication to the common good, but the influence-peddler pulling their strings understands what’s really going on, and isn’t ashamed of it.

A tweet Tuesday from tech journalist Mike Masnick highlighted comments by Washington lawyer Larry Latourette about the mad dash to influencenewly minted Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden:

Wyden is a bit of an odd duck on the Hill, making decisions primarily on his own view of the merits, which reduces the value of access and lobbying,

Only a Washington insider could write off a senator who evaluates policies based on how they’ll affect their constituents, rather than their career, as an eccentric.

Latourette deserves some credit for honesty, but this toxic mindset is pervasive inside the Beltway. When the mere suggestion that corporate interests have no sway over policymakers is treated like a departure from business as usual, something’s seriously broken.

This is bigger than any individual bad actor too. The outrageously expensive campaigns of the post-Citizens United era put extra pressure on “odd ducks” like Wyden to cozy up to well-funded lobbyists, or see their reelection hopes buried under an avalanche of attack ads.

Wyden may be able to stand up to the pressure. But his “odd duck” label testifies to just how entrenched Washington’s pay-to-play culture has become. The sad truth is that most members of the political class consider their duty to represent the people less important than their career ambitions and we the people suffer in the bargain.