Ignoring the Fifth Branch of Government

26 May 2013
May 26, 2013

My revised illustration of writer Turley’s four branches of the federal government. My version has an important addition.

Jonathan Turely, public interest law professor at George Washington University, writes in today’s Washington Post about the rise of the fourth branch of the federal government: the numerous agencies which administer and support many of the policies implemented by the traditional three branches of government. Turely, states at the beginning of his piece:

The growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more fundamental changes within the federal government itself: It is not just bigger, it is dangerously off kilter. Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency.

He brings up some important points. And his premise, that many agencies create rules (i.e. de facto laws) and police them independently of Congress and the courts, is something to consider. But, he ignores what I call The Fifth Branch of the American Government, the not so shadowy branch of lobbyists, PACs, and special interests that contribute millions of dollars to influence legislation. The illustration and accompanies the print edition of the article lacks this branch. So, I have taken it upon myself to correct this mistake.

We can’t talk about influence by Turely’s fourth arm without including the fifth, for this arm is the most opaque, autonomous, and powerful of all.

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