Lobbyists Pay Line-Standers to Grab Seats of Influence in Congess

August 20, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Lobbyists are busier than ever these days, with the push to reform health care and they are paying thousands of dollars to line-standing companies, to ensure they secure a precious seat at a congressional hearing, giving them an edge in the Capitol Hill influence game.

Money talks and the lobbyists schilling for wealthy corporate clients, grab the limited public seats at Congressional hearings, barring an average American citizen from the process.

Washington line-standing or placeholder companies began exploding in the 1990s and now it’s common practice to see a long line of professional line- standers, appearing before Congressional meeting rooms, as early as 3:AM. By 8:00 AM, the lines are so long, there is no chance of anyone, besides lobbyists filling the limited seats made available to the public.

Businesses, such as linestanding.com and Washington Express charge lobbyists $36.00 an hour for placeholder services, paying the line-standers $15.00 an hour to secure a seat for professional influence peddlers.

The line-standers are a mix of retirees supplementing their social security income, college students and the homeless. They arrive armed with coffee, newspapers and folding chairs for the long wait ahead. Right before the hearings begin, the line-standers wearing jeans and sweat suits are replaced by well-heeled lobbyists wearing suits.

Although the lobbyists can’t speak during the hearings to advance their client’s cause, their seat in the hearing room grants them access to staffers and lawmakers during breaks. The lobbyists swarm the corridors, looking for a chance to buttonhole a lawmaker to peddle whatever they are selling.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo) is outraged by the placeholding practice and tried unsuccessfully to put an end to it with a Bill in 2007, requiring lobbyists to certify that they have not paid anyone to save a seat for them at hearings.

“We need to make sure this place is available to the people who own it, and that’s the people of this country, not the lobbyists,” said McCaskill.

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