While many Americans may be aware that there are paid lobbyists in Washington attempting to influence their elected representatives, few are probably aware of the most powerful secret lobby in the Capitol.
The Business Roundtable has maintained a deliberately low profile since it was founded in 1972. The chairman, Thomas A. Murphy, also is chairman of General Motors Corporation.
Although it doesn’t divulge the names of its members, the Roundtable is known to include the chief executives of nearly 200 of the country’s richest corporations. Assets of the Roundtable’s member companies amount to $ 1.3 trillion, about half of the nation’s total gross national product. Mark Green, director of the Public Citizens Congress Watch, a Ralph Nader group, describes the Roundtable as “the most powerful secret lobby in Washington.”
In one way or another, the Business Roundtable, through its extraordinary influence, has affected every American. The Roundtable has successfully bottled up tax reforms, pushed legislation to subject all FTC rulings to a Congressional veto, helped win tax policy rulings favorable to business, supported oil and gas price decontrol, pushed for the Energy Mobilization Board which would have the power to override environmental considerations, blocked the creation of a consumer protection office, and watered down attempts to strengthen anti-trust legislation.
A recent report by the PCCW said that “Corporation and corporate lobbies have immense political power” that they can use to “exercise a sort of veto over Congress.” The power of the lobby springs largely from money, according to the report. “Money buys studies, lawyers, economists, and, at times, members of Congress themselves.”
Investigative journalist Jack Anderson recently reported that “Virtually every member of Congress openly accepts money and favors from special-interest moneymen trying to influence legislation.” And few of the estimated 15,000 lobbyists who prowl. the Capitol’s corridors and lobbies have the financial clout of the Business Roundtable.
The lack of mass media exposure given to the “most powerful secret lobby in Washington” and its impact on the nation qualifies this story for nomination as one o£ the “best censored” stories of 1979.
The New York Times Magazine, Dec. 9, 1979, “Big Business on the Offensive,’ by Philip Shabecoff; New York Times Service, Mar. 7, 1980, “Corporate Clout is Real;” Parade, Mar. 16, 1980, “Lobbyists: The Unelected Lawmakers in America,” by Jack Anderson.