Abramoff : Is It Happening Here?

Yes and no. Westminster does not have the big campaign finance demands that Washington has, the cash amounts are smaller and its more favours than cash. Lots of lunches, tickets, hospitality, flirting and flattery. Never underestimate the value of flirting and flattery on the ego of politicians.

However there are a lot of clients paying cash-for-access to lobbyists and pseudo-wonks. Is it corrupt? It’s a little sleazy, and some of the clients are being conned. Business clearly needs to put its case to politicians, for example a company like Capita, a quasi-parisitical business almost entirely reliant on the state bureaucracy and the taxpayers. Capita is going to spend lot of money keeping in with those that could influence contracts.

It’s not bribery, it ranges from the trivial sponsoring of a party conference fringe meeting which provides a platform for a minister to bore on about public service reform whilst you flatter him, to hiring ex-special advisers to lobby their former bosses. SpAds are prone to becoming lobbyists, Quangocrats and MPs, they therefore are keen to trade favours. New Labour types understand what is required without getting a memo. It’s just spivvy, rather than outright corruption, so it would be hard to convict anyone like Jack Abramoff. MPs fiddling their expenses hardly matches the Washington-style six-figure campaign donations which are used to fund US politician’s lifestyles.

Brussels is a different story…

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