Every politically sentient American knows that Congress has been dominated by special interests, and many people do not remember a time when Congress legislated in the public interest. In the 1960s and '70s, however, lobbyists were aggressive but were countered by progressive senators and representatives, as several books have documented.
What has remained untold is the major behind-the-scenes contribution of entrepreneurial Congressional staff, who planted the seeds of public interest bills in their bosses' minds and maneuvered to counteract the influence of lobbyists to pass laws in consumer protection, public health, and other policy arenas crying out for effective government regulation. They infuriated Nixon's advisor, John Ehrlichman, who called them ""bumblebees,"" a name they wore as a badge of honor.
For his insider account, Pertschuk draws on many interviews, as well as his fifteen years serving on the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee that Senator Warren Magnuson chaired and as the committee's Democratic Staff Director. That committee became, in Ralph Nader's words, ""the Grand Central Station for consumer protection advocates.
Michael Pertschuk served as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission from 1977 to 1981, and he cofounded the Advocacy Institute. He is the author of Smoke in Their Eyes: Lessons in Movement Leadership from the Tobacco Wars and The DeMarco Factor: Transforming Public Will into Political Power (both published by Vanderbilt University Press) and three other books.