It’s an election year – I know. You’re shocked to hear that considering how low-key all the campaigning has been and none of it started two years before that actual freaking election. Grrrr.
Anyway, it’s an election year and for some reason, that always seems to spur a hatefest against lobbyists. People get all twitchy when they remember that politicians have been meeting with lobbyists, probably daily, since the last election and then they scream about undue influence by lobbyists. I’m always tempted to be snotty and say “If you want to make sure your Congressman hears you as well as the lobbyists, make a damn appointment and go talk to him. You’re allowed to do that you know. It’s in the Constitution; the part about petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”
I don’t get snotty though. Instead I refer back to a post I wrote a year ago defending the work of lobbyists, pros and citizen advocates alike. I think the act of lobbying is one of the coolest things the Framers built into the Constitution:
I totally dig the whole act of lobbying. Lobbyists, professional and volunteer, are very often industry exerts and can shed light on specific interests and information that can positively influence lawmaking. The term comes from the old days when representatives for special interests used to hang around a hotel lobby in DC waiting for legislators to come back to their rooms so they could talk to them. The fact that they were allowed to wait there and have those conversations is codified in the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s right. Every citizen of this great nation is allowed the petition the government. By extension, that means every citizen can appoint a proxy to petition on their behalf and can pay them – or not – via private business agreement and the government can’t restrict it per the Commerce Clause. Groovy, isn’t it? You can pick up the phone tomorrow and call you elected officials and lobby them. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire a professional to do it for you. It’s a glorious example of the Constitution made manifest.
I do have issues with lobbying when it comes with money attached and I think most people would agree that the money is the real problem, not the people coming around to petition their leaders for redress of grievances. When I worked in a lobbying shop for a non-profit organization we lobbied until we were blue in the face but we didn’t bring checks with us. Just volunteers with amazing stories to tell and good information to share. Doing that, we made a difference. So, it can be done without money and I believe that always SHOULD be done without money.
Anyway, you can read my old post about lobbying. And you too can become a lobbyist any time you want. Just maybe without the six-figure K St. salary. Bummer.