The growth of lobby shops in Washington further tips the balance of power in our democracy in favor of the wealthy and well-connected -- and against the average citizen ["The Road to Riches Is Called K Street; Lobbying Firms Hire More, Pay More, Charge More to Influence Government," front page, June 22].

In 2002 Congress gave lobbyists a huge helping hand by doubling the individual contribution limits to $2,000 per election or $4,000 per cycle. Even before this change -- and the sharper restrictions on "soft money" that accompanied it -- lobbyists gave 92 percent of their contributions in limited hard money, according to a 2001 U.S. Public Interest Research Group report.

Higher contribution limits allow lobbyists to buy more access. More important, larger contributions going almost exclusively to incumbents further freeze out challengers -- demonstrating once again that big money determines who runs for office and who wins.

Congress should lower contribution limits to a level most folks can afford and pass a tax credit for small political contributions. The voices of a few thousand well-heeled lobbyists on K Street shouldn't drown out the millions of voices from Main Street.

ADAM LIOZ

Democracy Advocate

U.S. Public Interest Research Group

Washington

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"The Road to Riches" skimmed the surface of how lobbyists are affecting federal spending. The really smart lobbyists are not fiddling with appropriations (an increasingly smaller slice of the federal budget pie). They are going to where the real money is in the federal government -- the tax code.

The Joint Committee on Taxation says that "tax expenditures" will exceed $920 billion in the next fiscal year, a little more than all discretionary appropriations (where every cent is scrutinized).

Why would any lobbyist waste time seeking an appropriation when a tax break will keep his or her client below the watchdog radar? Plus, in the political world, tax cut sounds so much better than subsidy.

TIM GILLESPIE

Chevy Chase

The writer is a registered lobbyist.