I used to be a lobbyist.

When I first strolled the long halls of the Rayburn House office building, a marble monolith of bureaucracy, I was overcome with a surreal feeling of wonderment. There's a lot of history here, and occasionally I found myself swept up in what felt like the entire span of democratic civilization. Tourists stand, mouths agape and camera shutters firing, witnessing the same veneer of mythical magnitude. In D.C., romanticism often trumps reality.

This, I thought, this is where everything happens. This is where noble members of the public trust harness enlightened traditions and institutions to advance the common interest.

But then I met the members of Congress.