Lobbying: To what extent it has undermined the government?
Lobbying is one of the oldest approach used in negotiation and consultation between the government and the people through a lobbyist, a representative from a group or a private individual. Lobbying is any communication made by a representative or lobbyists in representation from a client or any organization to members of Congress, congressional staffers, the president, White House staff and high-level employees of different agencies with regards to the creation of amendments or implementation of legislation. It has been in the limelight since 19th century in influencing the votes of legislators. It may be direct and indirect appeal outside the legislative chamber, direct influence is engaged in persuading the executive and legislative branches while indirect appeal persuades the public on their opinion. Since lobbyists are representatives from different institutions, business corporations, labor unions, executive branch agencies, external/foreign governments, and private or public interest groups, Congress had passed strict requirements for lobbyists to recognize the organizations they represent, plus prerequisites to register and identify their representation and sources of finance. Long before the submission of requirements, it was already required and enacted by the Congress in 1876.
Nevertheless, members of the Congress was concerned on the restriction and limitations of lobbying because the fundamental nature of constitutional right to speech and freedom is restricted. Misleading information concerning lobbyist are oftentimes the reason why rules and regulations are passed. They were labeled as a sinister image, however, a senator from the Republican-New Hampshire, figure because history showed they performed responsible tasks and justifiable function by engaging in the interests of the people.” Lobbyists are persons employed directly by an organization or any agencies that will communicate with the Congress and promote for a specific contract. They devote their time for at least twenty percent in a six-month period in lobbying activities. Since 1998, there are about 27,000 lobbyists and 3,500 lobbying firms employed by more than 22,000 companies and agencies.
It is important that we discussed first the historical accounts of lobbying in Congress since it is where we can originate and identify the extent on how it historically undermined the government. This is where we can assess and evaluate the major outcomes, strengths and witnesses during the early periods of lobbying. The web of conflicts and issues is a widespread manipulation of interested few and proven historically from the start it was organized and continuously accepted and implemented by the present system. Amount of damage brought by lobbying is countless, whether monetary, social or political aspect of the government’s system of administering the process and implementing laws and regulations.
Lobbying in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries focused mainly on the legislation aspect but it was combined with the commands of bribery. This has not changed until 1950s when pressured tactics changed to softer side of selling and bribing since lobbying issues were widespread at that time. Lobbyists concentrated its attention on the executive branch during that period. Concentration on the economic interest in the fields of business, agriculture, labor, and career profession was the main points of lobbyists in the 1970s. Unfortunately it has not emphasized the genuine interest of the people because main lobbyists were members of big corporations such as the American Petroleum Institute and Aerospace Industries Association. It has shifted its objective to new goals like the military-industrial complex. In the 1980s and 1990s, lobbying was more concentrated on the social issues, at least emphasizing justice on the side of the people. Abortion, legalization of school prayer, separation of the church and state were the common issues at that time and an increase in number of lobbyists proliferated coming from diverse groups of teacher’s unions, policemen, and scientists. However, corruption and bribery was still present, amount of money spent on political campaigns extremely worsened. Controversy was out of control in the late twentieth century and a striking growth in the role of lobbies in the process of Senate verification was also observed. By the year 1990, public clamor against lobbies concentrated on their role in campaign finance giving less and less trust and belief. As a matter of fact, most of the candidates from the office of the federal in the United States are dependent on donations from lobbyists to back and fund their political campaigns. Coming years was harsh as it continuously supported the candidates in financing their political interests in winning the elections. By the early twentieth century, emerging political issues such as the financial support to candidates given by the lobbyists is one of the major problems in the American political ground. Americans unquestionably proved that lobbies and other political pressure groups are threats to democracy itself. Corruption such as massive infusion of money has been a long serious problem in the American political history. To date, a lobbyist in the name of Jack Abramoff was guilty of charges such as mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials including George W. Bush. It was found out that Abramoff was the major fundraiser for Bush’s presidential campaigns raising $100,000 in the 2004 elections (Knott). Other numerous reports and issues on lobbying industry include the revolving door and campaign finance. The revolving door involves federal officers and government employees registered lobbyists between 1998 and 2004 and 250 former members of Congress has opted to register to lobby. It’s a big business revolving around the government agencies. While campaign finance generated millions of dollars in supporting the campaign trails of Bush and Kerry amounting to $1.8 million and $520,000 respectively. This came from 442 lobbyists in the years 1998 through 2004.
Also, concept of interaction is a key to determine the contact and dealings between the lobbyists and legislators. Existing knowledge and questions such as how much interaction actually takes place, how often, what is the nature of the interaction and what is the effect of this interaction between lobbyists and legislators. Answers would determine how much extent it could worsen corruption in the government. This could be positive or negative outcome brought about by interaction. Positive interaction is geared towards the common good and negative interaction involves distrust, impartiality, bad integrity of the political process it deals with. People’s distrust is centered on the visibility of principled and moral guidelines for the lobbying profession and if these moral guidelines will create a big distinction in the legislation. The negative image of lobbyists are the main distrust of the people deriving from public criticisms such as established relation to power and money, dependence on controlling marketing procedure in the wooing of public opinion, and the conclusion that they are political hired guns at the service of private organizations and corporations.
Lobbying contains many controversies and issues, it has produced a bad reputation to the public and legislators molded the government as an industry money-making scheme. The extent of damage which was historically established and produced by lobbying is widespread and uncontrollable. It is an institutionalized system in the lobby of the government offices making it more undemocratic and discriminating. Government officials and members of the Congress are oftentimes invited by corporations to travel and attend corporate conferences in beautiful places. They go out and have a drink and would give them a couple of hundred bucks according to Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen (Claybrook). With regards to House and Senate Ethics Rules, lawmakers and officials cannot accept payment or even reimbursement for travel from lobbyists and firms. Some meetings will constitute a big impact on the decision of the Congress, whether what amendments they would push in the committees, what tax breaks they would give, and what interests the corporations want. It is certainly a very different aspect of governance and does not serve the genuine objective and interest of the public. Good lobbying should serve the common people and create lasting and positive governance. Elements of worthy lobbying should constitute good relationship between lobbyists and the government. Rules and regulations should be formulated among lobbyists and lobbying firms. The ideal lobbyists are composed of members from different sectors that should uplift their objectives and aspirations. Lobbying should confront the needs of the people and not on the needs of the few. The most crucial of this kind of system is when future leaders will adopt the same strategy and will continue the process when not controlled. Effective lobbying should involve grass roots mobilization that will engage in an active participation of the key persons and decision-makers. Strong, consistent execution is a difficult task thing to do but through a democratic process, it can be a powerful strategy to develop lasting and equal participation of the common people.
Rules and regulations should be properly materialized to ensure constitutional right and welfare both for the lobbyist and legislators. The Regulation of Lobbying Act should undergo more revisions since some of its rules are still unclear. The most important aspect of changing the character of lobbying is to regulate grassroots communications as a form of lobbying on constitutional grounds and create a committee as watchers on how lobbyists are performing according to the rules and regulations. On the other side of the story, one should look at the positive side of lobbying, it is a key in solving societal problems and developed mechanisms to improve economic and political growth when appropriately executed and carried out to the public.
Claybrook, J. B. POLITICS AND THE “MONEY SYSTEM” [Electronic Version]. The Ethics of Lobbying: Organized Interests, Political Power, and the Common Good. Retrieved July 12, 2007 from http://woodstock.georgetown.edu/publications/report/r-fea72.htm.