"That can buy a lot of influence, and it's a fraction of what the financial sector is reaping in return through the government's bailout program."
The list of highest-ranking spenders on Washington lobbying reads like a roster of some of the most powerful interests nationwide. Topping the list was the health sector, which spent $478.5 million lobbying Congress last year. A close runner-up was the finance, insurance, and real-estate sector, spending $453.5 million. Pharmaceutical companies plunked down $230 million; electric utilities spent $156.7 million; and oil and gas companies paid lobbyists $133.2 million.
Source: "Washington Lobbying Grew to $3.2 Billion Last Year, Despite Economy," Center for Responsive Politics, Open Secrets.org
7. OBAMA'S CONTROVERSIAL DEFENSE APPOINTEES
President Barack Obama's appointments to the Department of Defense have raised serious questions among critics who've studied their track records. Although the news media haven't paid much attention, the defense appointees bring to the administration controversial histories and conflicts of interest due to close ties to defense contractors.
Obama's decision to retain Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, marks the first time in history that a president has opted to keep a defense secretary of an outgoing opposing party in power.
Gates, a former CIA director, has faced criticism for allegedly spinning intelligence reports for political means. In Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, author and former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman described him as "the chief action officer for the Reagan administration's drive to tailor intelligence reporting to White House political desires." Gates also came under scrutiny for questions surrounding whether he misled Congress during the Iran-contra scandal in the mid-1980s, and was accused of withholding information from intelligence committees when the U.S. provided military aid to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.
Critics are also uneasy about the appointment of Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who formerly served as a senior vice president at defense giant Raytheon Company and was a registered lobbyist for Raytheon until July 2008. Lynn, who previously served as Pentagon comptroller under the Clinton administration, came under fire during his confirmation hearing for "questionable accounting practices." The Defense Department failed multiple audits under Lynn's leadership because it was unable to properly account for $3.4 trillion in financial transactions made over the course of several years.
Sources: "The Danger of Keeping Robert Gates," Robert Parry, ConsortiumNews.com, Nov. 13, 2008; "Obama's Defense Department Appointees- The $3.4 Trillion Question," Andrew Hughes, Global Research, Feb. 13, 2009; "Obama Nominee Admiral Dennis Blair Aided perpetrators of 1999 church Killings in East Timor," Allan Nairn, Democracy Now! Jan. 7, 2009; "Ties to Chevron, Boeing Raise Concern on Possible NSA Pick," Roxana Tiron, The Hill, Nov. 24, 2008
8. BIG BUSINESS CHEATS THE IRS
The Cayman Islands and Bermuda are magnets for Bank of America, Citigroup, American International Group, and 11 other financial giants that were the beneficiaries of the federal government's 2008 Wall Street bailout. It's not the balmy weather that inspires some of America's wealthiest companies to open operations in the Caribbean archipelago: the offshore oases provide safe harbors to stash cash out of the reach of Uncle Sam.
According to a 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office, which was largely ignored by the news media, 83 of the top publicly-held U.S.