FAQ

I’ll post questions and answers of general interest here.  If you have a question, please leave a comment, and I’ll try to post a human-readable answer (either as a comment or as a question in this list).

1. Why does our government continue to allow lobbying when there are so many problems with it?

Simply put, it’s specifically protected by the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution (emphasis added):

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.

But beyond that, I suggest you don’t take all the horrible things said about lobbying by the MSM (Main Stream Media) at face value (and read this article for an alternate point of view).

Yes, there are abuses, and there are scandals.  We’ve had a few abuses and scandals with home mortgages and banks lately, but that doesn’t mean that the idea of home mortgages is bad or that we should close all the banks.  Any system that involves money and/or power can be abused, and will be abused to the extent our laws and our lack of oversight allow it.  Laws have been developed to help curb lobbying abuses, and most lobbyists (and most lawmakers) I’ve met are good people with good intentions who do good work (even when they’re limited by the system).  In addition, most of the scandals involve lobbyists who broke the rules – but most lobbyists follow the rules.  So just as in other industries, most of the bad press is the result of a few bad apples.

Lobbying also serves a very important purpose – to give most of us a voice in Washington DC that we wouldn’t have if our only option was to travel to DC and voice our concerns ourselves.  Whether you realize it or not, many issues that are important to you, personally, are being lobbied for in Congress right now.  All kinds of organizations with agendas from charity to civil rights to consumer protection lobby in Washington DC every single day.  And if they didn’t, our laws would be very different, in ways we probably wouldn’t be very happy about.

So lobbyists give you a chance to have your voice heard.  If you don’t feel like your voice is being heard, maybe you should consider hiring a lobbyist?  And if you can’t afford to hire your own lobbyist, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck – find an organization with interests that match yours, and ask them if they use lobbyists; if they do (and don’t be surprised if they do), support them with what you can afford.  Power to the people – the DC way.

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4 Responses to “FAQ”

  1. Karam Kang Says:

    Hi,

    I am a graduate student at University of Pennsylvania, working on a thesis about the effect of lobbying on the passage of legislation, using the Lobbying Disclosure Act data.

    One of the biggest problems that I face in the research is that I have no idea about how the lobbyists allocated their time on each specific piece of legislation. Put in another way, I would like to know how much money is spent on a specific issue, but what is on the reports is the title of bills and the total money spent during a specific period.

    I was wondering if you think it is anyway possible to figure out how to break down the sum into specific spending. For example, do you think if I ask lobbyists, they are able to answer this question? If they cannot answer this question, for any legal or other reasons, would there be any other way that I can get a hint from available sources? Anything that can help me figure out the lobbying efforts, for instance, maybe the frequency of contacts to Congressmen or the frequency of the presence at the hearings?

    Thank you very much. Your website was very helpful, too.

    Best,

    Karam

  2. Michael Thomas, Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions Says:

    Hi Karam,

    The best answer you’ll get is from lobbyists themselves. I would expect that different lobbyists work different ways, and the work they do varies depending on the type of issue they’re working on. For example, when working on appropriations, most of the work is probably spent arranging and participating in meetings with members of Congress, but when working on policy issues, there’s probably a significant amount of time spent doing research on the issues and writing proposed text for the legislation. (Note that the text for many pieces of legislation is originally written by lobbyists, who provide it as a proposal to members of Congress, and then is modified by Congressional and committee staff members to make the final bill).

    For any other methods to try and break down the time spent, I suggest you contact the folks at OpenSecrets.org – they’ve been in the business of trying to understand lobbying influence for a long time, and will be able to offer better advice than I can.

    Regards,
    Michael

  3. Karam Says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your helpful reply! I would like to share the results of my work later with you.

    Best,

    Karam

  4. joel poznansky Says:

    Karam,

    How did the research go. I would be interested in learning more. Joel Poznansky 301 875 5655. We are a publisher in Washington DC.


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