Let’s rethink lobbying: What is best?

My friend reminded me that lobbying is a concern.  I agree and had considered making a statement concerning the idea that has now become a profession when it should not.

Before I spoke, though, I thought I should do a little review.  I started with the US Constitution.  I pulled up the full text and did a simple search for these terms:  lobby, lobbying, and lobbyist.  I was not surprised–none of these terms are in the entire constitution.

Therefore, the next step–federal laws.  Yes, there are laws, in fact each state have laws to regulate lobbying.  Interestingly, the laws are very similar and include a monetary limit on gifts that must be reported.

A monetary limit to gifts!  Why should lobbying involve any form of gifting?  Check the definition of lobbying:

 Definition of lobby [Accessed on February 13, 2018 at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lobby]:

1 a corridor or hall connected with a larger room or series of rooms and used as a passageway or waiting room
2 a group of persons engaged in lobbying especially as representatives of a particular interest group

Definition of lobby [Accessed on February 13, 2018 at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lobby]:

1  A room providing a space out of which one or more other rooms or corridors lead, typically one near the entrance of a public building.

 

2  (in the UK) any of several large halls in the Houses of Parliament in which MPs may meet members of the public.  

3  A group of people seeking to influence legislators on a particular issue.

Please notice that I have posted two different sources for the definition.  The first definition in both entries are a location, but it is the 2nd & 3rd entry that pertains to people/organizations influencing legislators.

No where in these definitions is the method of influence mentioned.  Certainly the absence of a monetary reference is obvious, so why has lobbying become so entwined with money or gifts in so many different forms become synonymous with the idea of lobbying.

In my web search, I found another website that outlines how enormously profound lobbying has become as an accepted method of monetary influence.  Checkout this website:  http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/lobbyist-regulation.aspx  [also accessed February 13, 2018].

The chart is interesting and I did read through Missouri’s, but the entry that captured my closest attention is this paragraph:

“OVERVIEW | LOBBYIST REGULATION

Lobbying—a citizens’ right to speak freely, to affect decisions and petition the government—is a crucial right, and an important part of the legislative process. This right has also created an industry whose numbers have increased dramatically. A 2006 survey by the Center for Public Integrity put the number of paid lobbyists at state legislatures at near 40,000 and growing. State lobbying laws have sprung up in response to the proliferation of the “third house” and the influence that it exerts. The details of each state’s lobbying laws differ markedly, so much so that nearly 50 different versions exist. There are common themes, however. All states define who is a lobbyist and what is lobbying, and all definitions reflect that lobbying is an attempt to influence government action. All states have lobbyist registration requirements, and all require lobbyists to report on their activities. In addition to tracking the above issues, the Center for Ethics in Government has information on lobbyist oversight entities, restrictions on the use of public funds for lobbying, lobbyist contingency fees, lobbyist identification, prohibitions against false statements and reports and legislators’ disclosure of lobbyist connections.”

Here is my concern:  Lobbying is out of control.  Influencing our legislators should not, definitely should not, involve any form of gifting.  Influence is done by word of mouth and by actions NOT by purchasing in any form.  When dollars are added into the formula of influence, then there is no level platform for influencing–those with money get the most attention.

Communicating an individual’s, a group’s, or an industry’s personal agenda is not wrong, but attaching the influence to a gift weighs the playing field.  When lobbying, the key should be what is best for the people?  What is best for the country?  What is best for our land?  Definitely NOT what is best for the corporation, the pocketbook, or any one individual!

Let’s keep the focus on what is best for all individuals, not what is the best way to buy one’s own agenda.  

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