The political is commercial — it’s a play on the seventies slogan, “the personal is political.” But it’s true and it came to mind recently as I read Eleanor Bloxham’s article about SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Washington’s “revolving door.” To put it simply: government jobs are worth something to law firms and corporations and so employees are dispatched to Washington for a year or two to further entrench the company or firm in government workings. When a lawyer or executive leaves their job for a year or two to take a government position, they expect it to be beneficial for both themselves and their company. It seems unlikely they worry about whether it’s beneficial to the public.
There is a fundamental difference between the perspective and the view point of a public official and that of an official in a private company. And it is just right that they should be different. The difficulty we now face is that they been merged and the controlling consideration is what is in the interest of the private sector company. The government language and perspective is now dominated by corporate interests.
It’s worth noting that this is the silent sister issue to corporate political spending. Even if we solved that issue by overturning Citizens United or some other method, corporate influence would still be a pervasive and destructive issue in Washington.
All of this brought to mind two anecdotes from my time as a government official in Washington and I share them on this video.