12 February 2011

Kremlin's K Street

K Street is a major Washington, D. C., street.  K Street is famous, or perhaps infamous, because it is recognized as national center for lobbyists and advocacy groups of various sorts, all of whom try to influence elections or national policies.

Moscow, being a large capital city like Washington, has its own version of influence peddlers.  The most expedient way to influence government in Russia is through hiring professional bribers.  Like American lobbyists, Russian professional bribers are generally ex-government employees who understand the political power structure and have a vast network of personal contacts.  The combination of these factors allows both the American lobbyist and the Russian professional briber to grease the wheels for motion in the right direction.

Lobbyist At Work, Washington Style

Of course, there are differences between the American and Russian variants of wheel greasing.  The American version typically entails directly or indirectly swaying public opinion to determent election outcomes.  The direct method is helping fund the (ever more expensive) election campaigns of various candidates.  The candidate then determines how to best use that money during the campaign cycle so that he can win.  The indirect method is through publishing papers, funding research (that generally has a known, desired outcome), or writing op-ed pieces in well-circulated newspapers.

Lobbyist At Work, Moscow Style

The Russian variant is rather efficient.  As his job title implies, the professional briber greases wheels by greasing palms.  The money goes directly in the pocket of he who has decision making power.  Of course, results are not guaranteed, but due to the efficiency of the Russian method, one can influencing public officials with more certainty than in the US.

Some readers may be reaching a conclusion that I am implicitly stating above; namely, the political systems of Russia and America are basically the same (I have heard this claim multiple times).  In fact, they are not.

While there clearly is room for corruption in the US, existing American laws impose a level of transparency that is not known in any appreciable degree in Russia.  This transparency forces better behavior by American special interest groups - many of whom would likely resort to the Russian efficient method if they had the chance.

Transparency Makes for Better Behavior

Influencing policy and governmental action is a essential part of the democratic process.  Gaming the system is fundamental to the character of the rational human being.  The trick to good behavior is the right rules for playing, and enforcement thereof.  Without these rules and their enforcement, all of us - whether we are Russians, Nigerians, or Americans  - are subject to nothing more than being human with all of its flaws.

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