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Published:December 18th, 2009 10:47 EST

Don't Listen to Congress, Follow Its Money Trail

By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

If news media were not as commercially governed and censored as Congress they would have the integrity and nerve to point out where members of Congress get their money every time they open their mouths to parrot the lines lobbyists feed them.

The reason the media don`t do this is because they feed at the same trough. The result is a bought and paid for government that serves no one who is unable to lavish money on political hacks and their media stage managers.

CNN`s Situation Room has made the senior senator from South Carolina, Lindsey O. Graham, a virtual permanent fixture, allowing him to spout off like a Delphic oracle without ever telling its viewers where Graham gets his money from. Nothing he has ever said on CNN is as newsworthy or interesting as his finances.

If the mainstream media were half as cogent as OpenSecrets.org, for one example, the public would have some idea of just how predictable the views of people like Graham are "predictable because they`ve been paid for. There`s little difference between Tiger Woods selling a brand and members of Congress hacking for lobbyists.

What we`re getting is news theater, not news and certainly not information. Viewers would do much better to scan the web if they really want to know what is going on. They could use a project like schema-root.org, an index of current events, or OpenSecrets or SourceWatch.org.

Yes, it would take a little initiative, just what few in Big Media have, but it would soon enough yield the squalid picture of a government in the service of lobbyists, not the people. There are 3,300 lobbyists working on health care reform alone. In 2005 Public Citizen reported that 48 percent of lawmakers who left office since 1998 became lobbyists.

Does anybody really believe the people are being heard?

When did you ever hear an anchor or a reporter quote a congressman and then offer the caveat that X number of dollars had gone into his or her campaign coffers from lobbyists with vital interests germane to what the congressman had just said? Is that too much to ask from people who purport to be informing us? The information is readily available on the web, so what is Big Media`s excuse? The information would certainly be more interesting than whatever the Congressman had just been yammering about. And it would serve the purpose of holding his feet to the fire.

What is the print medium`s excuse? It has the time and space. It is not constrained by sound-bite journalism.

Why is it so important to Big Media to prevent the big picture from emerging "the picture of a wholly compromised government obsessed with campaign contributions instead of representing the people? This picture, like Dorian Gray`s in his attic, becomes more horrific by the year, and the 24/7 chattering class has hidden it from view.

Not a single thing a Joe Lieberman or Lindsey Graham or Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi says is worth a damn unless we also know where their money comes from. Sad but true. The days of a deeply indebted Thomas Jefferson walking back to his boarding house alone after his inauguration are long gone. This is limousine government while the people are increasingly jobless and sick.

When Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, or Senator Graham say the American people don`t want health care reform, television can`t even bring itself to challenge them and point out that poll after poll shows the people do want reform and, in fact, want the public option, which the White House seems willing to sell to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, an insurance industry shill.

If the press were doing its job the people would understand full well how a fat-cat government chose to bail out bankers instead of struggling wage earners. And it wouldn`t even take much enterprise. It certainly wouldn`t take a costly investigative team. All it would take is some web savvy and initiative.

Lazy press? No, the answer is not that easy. The press is as much in bed with lobbyists as the Congressmen they so tediously quote day after day, it`s just a different bed in a different place. It`s the story of a profession turning to prostitution simply because it has become difficult to earn an honest living. The will and the ability to resist advertising pressure has broken down, and most of the media people no longer even try to keep the money bags out of the newsroom.

The simple way to begin to cure the nation of the scourge of a Congress for hire is for a press as persistent as gnats to make the connection day after day between what the senators and representatives say and who gives them money to say it. Is this so much to ask of the Fourth Estate? Would it be bad or even awkward journalism? I think it would be a lot more interesting than the tedious yip-yap of paid hacks.

Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latté first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.  

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.