Politics

Obama Pushes CEOs To Increase Lobbying

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is complaining that Fortune 500 CEOs aren’t using their lobbying power in Congress to help him pass his big-government agenda.

But he’s pleased with how they’ve lobbied for immigration increases, despite rising public opposition to immigration increases.

“To their credit, I think on an issue like immigration reform, for example, companies did step up,” he told The Economist magazine, a U.K.-based magazine.

The CEOs “come and they have lunch with me — which they do more often than they probably care to admit — and they’ll say, ‘You know what, we really care about the environment, and we really care about education, and we really care about getting immigration reform done,’” Obama said during an July 30 interview on Air Force One.

“Then my challenge to them consistently is, ‘Is your lobbyist working as hard on those issues as he or she is on preserving that tax break that you’ve got?’” Obama said in the interview, which was published Saturday.

That statement clashes with his repeated criticism of lobbyists in Washington D.C.

“I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race,” he said in 2008. “I don’t take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House.”

In 2010, he slammed banks for opposing his plan to tighten regulation of the tightly-regulated banking sector. “Battalions of financial industry lobbyists [are] descending on Capitol Hill, as firms spend millions to influence the outcome of this debate and] we’ve seen misleading arguments and attacks designed not to improve the bill but to weaken or kill it,” he declared. (KAUSFILES: Obama’s Corporatist Constitution)

But Obama’s progressive ideology calls for government to work with companies, unions, advocacy groups and universities to manage the nation’s economy and social life, regardless of what the voters want.

He used that strategy to help establish Obamacare, his energy programs and education strategies.

There’s a payoff for cooperating with government — grants or tax breaks, new markets or new curbs on rival companies.

Solyndra, for example, received $536 million before declaring bankruptcy in 2011, at a cost of roughly $500 million to the taxpayer. Universities get greater revenue via low-cost government loans to students, health-insurance companies get more federally-subsidized customers, and various non-profits get more grants to aid illegal immigrants, promote preferred sexual behavior or help poor people buy relatively expensive houses.

But there’s also a price. The recipients are expected to help support Democratic candidates, via donations, public endorsements and cheerleading.

This add up to “crony capitalism,” not a free market, say many Republicans, such as conservative upstart Dave Brat and former presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Obama has used the same corporatist strategy to push his comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Many companies have lobbied for its passage, but so far, they have only gotten the huge bill through the Senate in June 2013.

The bill would provide a path to legalization for roughly 12 million Democratic-leaning immigrants. It would also double the annual flow of the new lower-wage immigrants and guest workers to almost four million per year, which is roughly equal to the number of Americans who turn 18 each year. It would also increase money for border security and move businesses toward a nationwide E-Verify system.

In a Friday press conference, he defended his support for increased immigration by saying it is supported by business and other leading groups, without mentioning Americans.

“We have a … bipartisan agreement supported by everybody from labor to the evangelical community to law enforcement. So the argument isn’t between me and the House Republicans. It’s between the … House Republicans and the business community, and House Republicans and the evangelical community,” he said.

“I’m just one of the people they seem to disagree with on this issue,” he added.

In his Economist interview, which took place one day prior to the press conference, Obama congratulated companies who worked with him to reduce their labor costs by boosting the inflow of foreign workers.

“To their credit, I think on an issue like immigration reform, for example, companies did step up. What they’re discovering is the dysfunction of a Republican Party that knows we need immigration reform, knows that it would actually be good for its long-term prospects, but is captive to the nativist elements in its party,” he said.

Unfortunately for the president and his corporate allies, the “nativist” elements are a large and growing slice of the electorate. The evidence is found in this poll, or this poll, this poll, or this poll, or this poll. Or this poll, this poll and this poll, this poll, this poll and this poll.

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