Spending to lobby the US government has almost tripled since 1998, but numbers of registered lobbyists have barely budged. How the work gets done without the scarlet 'L' of lobbyist registration.
The task of reining in the national debt lies in the hands of a super committee of 12, which gets down to business now that Congress is returning from its summer break.
In many ways, the Republicans' voluntary two-year earmark ban is limited in scope. But it's already undermining Congress's spending 'cardinals' and changing how lobbyists lobby Capitol Hill.
The equivalent of six health-care lobbyists for every member of Congress are registered for this year's biggest political battle.