Is It Lobbying, or Is It Serious Research?

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That's a question raised by this column in the New York Post by Rep. Gregory Meeks. Meeks is a Democrat who represents the Sixth Congressional District of New York–essentially, southeastern Queens. The district's population in 2000 was 52 percent black and 9 percent Asian; it voted 87 to 10 percent for Al Gore in 2000 and 84 to 15 percent for John Kerry in 2004. Meeks, as you might expect, has a voting record well to the left in the House–though not as far left as some members. Yet he supports a relaxation of the audit requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

Why? Because he's studied it. As he puts it:

"After spending the better part of a year learning more than I ever hoped to about audit compliance and systems of internal control, my colleagues and I introduced the COMPETE Act (Competitive and Open Markets That Protect and Enhance the Treatment of Entrepreneurs) in the 109th Congress; we've reintroduced it in the 110th Congress."

I suppose some people will see this as a sellout to business and as an example of business interests lobbying in their self-interest. And I'm sure that many business lobbyists did provide a lot in the way of information and argument to Congressman Meeks. It's possible that he has received campaign contributions from interested parties; he seems to spend about half a million dollars a year even when he has no opposition. But I take him at his word. When congressional legislation channels huge flows of money and imposes huge costs on the private sector, people who are affected are going to try to affect legislation. That's what happens in a free society. Lobbying–petitioning the government for redress of grievances–is a right protected by the First Amendment. I think this article is evidence that Meeks is taking his responsibilities as a legislator seriously. And I have some sympathy with him. I wouldn't want to spend "the better part of a year learning more than I ever hoped to about audit compliance and systems of internal control."