Lobbying can be defined as the act of becoming proactive by contacting local and government members to influence policy, legislation or laws. Lobbyists are hired by the general public, private individuals, business corporations or groups and organizations to convince or influence legislation in favor of their cause.
As controversial as lobbyists have become, it is important to remember that they do serve a purpose. It is unfair to lump all lobbyists as unethical or representing only large organizations or special interests (corporations, labor unions, education, professional associations, medical interests). Lobbyists also represent a variety of public interest and social issue groups such as: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, The National Rifle Association, the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League.
It’s important to remember lobbyists contribute their expertise and do represent diverse social and economic viewpoints which lend a hand to influence lawmakers and Congress oftentimes helping to frame legislation.
Most every group has a lobbyist to help make their cause or agenda known. A lobbyist may be a member of a special-interest group, a professional willing to represent any group, or a private individual.
- Legislators can find out about topics that perhaps weren’t in their area of expertise through the aid a lobbyist. Lobbyists can educate and inform and oftentimes provide valuable information to legislatures.
- Lobbyists can provide assistance in the political arena by creating positive results with their areas of expertise.
- Most lobbyists are basically honest; however, they do pay the price for the negative impressions and mistrust of lobbyists abusing their positions. In the end, the honest lobbyist will be judged by their actions in working to promote causes they believe in.
- Good lobbyists provide accurate information to lawmakers on issues that concern their clients. Lobbyists can also impress upon lawmakers reasons to vote in a specific direction with the best interest of the client or public and not for self-seeking or abusing their positions.
- Lobbying can bring about needed change in our government and the United States as a whole.
- Lobbying also help to bring groups together and able to give them a voice through representation giving them a chance to be heard.
The undue influence of unethical practices of lobbyists has been controversial for years. There are those that would like to see all lobbyists removed from the government arena.
- Due to a recent Supreme Court decision, lobbyists can now inject additional money directly into political campaigns and are likely to have even more power. This gives the lobbyists the power to make or break elected officials and directly impact how they vote. Basically, lobbyists can now tell an elected official: If you vote wrong, the people I represent will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against re-election. See the Washington Post article.
- While lobbyists and their employers cannot themselves make large campaign donations to politicians, they can and do raise money from other sources for re-election campaigns.
- There are lobbyists that use bribery as a direct means to influence any government action. This is not what democracy is about. This practice is unethical and creates an atmosphere of corruption and greed.
- Unethical practices occur when lobbyists represent persons seeking specific ends or when votes are made in response to money or property rather than the vote(s). When such unethical practices occur, votes are not made in good faith but rather for personal gain.
- Lobbyists can end up turning our legal system into a system where money purchases both right of entry to legislators and a means to buy votes to attain specific results.
Whenever I hear the word “lobbyist”, my thoughts go immediately to “political ethics” and the lack of it within our government today. Lobbyists serve a purpose when representing their clients in an ethical manner. Perhaps if current laws were enforced on lobbyists misrepresenting their positions, it would go a long ways to reestablishing credibility and a more positive atmosphere in Washington and abroad.
As the old saying goes, “you can’t live with them or you can’t live without them.” As with any situation or issue, when balance, ethics and integrity are present and applied accordingly, the end result is generally fair. Lobbyists should be reminded that they are not above the law!
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through
this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and
pierced themselves with many pangs. ~1 Timothy 6:10