At its very core, lobbying is a vital part of American democracy. Our Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Lobbying is a way to ensure that grievances are heard and, ideally, resolved.
For better or worse, our laws and legislative processes are complex. They can be downright overwhelming to individual citizens or business owners. Lobbyists understand the legislative process inside and out. They act as liaisons between the public and representatives in Congress, helping congressional members understand issues they may not otherwise know much about.Lobbyists are connected to congressional staff, business leaders, and politicians in ways everyday citizens generally aren’t.
Why All the Negative Talk About Lobbyists?
The lobbying industry has faced its share of criticism from economists, academics—even the POTUS in his initial run for president.
Some see lobbying as existing only to benefit special interests, and the richest industries and corporations. There’s no denying that wealthy industries have benefited heavily from lobbying. In 2004, for example, a conglomerate of 93 U.S. corporations lobbied for a temporary tax break on offshore money they wanted to bring back to U.S. banks. Their argument: The money saved would be used to create jobs. They spent $283 million in lobbying costs and saved $63 billion in taxes—a 22,000 percent return on investment.1
Depending on your viewpoint, you may see creating jobs as a top priority and take no issue with the strategy used by this corporate conglomerate. Or you may view their move as nothing more than an unethical means of tax evasion.
Whatever position you take on this specific example, the reality is that lobbyists represent all points of view on every issue imaginable—from environmental protection advocates, to energy extraction interests, to issues facing children and the elderly.
As a recent example of democracy in action in the lobbying arena, plant-based food companies—many of which advocate for improved animal welfare and environmental sustainability—are realizing the power of lobbying to help them stand up against the agribusiness giants. Food critic and researcher Michele Simon recently launched the Plant Based Foods Association, a membership-based trade group of plant-based food producers that already has its own part-time lobbyist.2
Representation Across the Board
Like any industry, the lobbying sector may have a few bad apples, but, on the whole, lobbyists are law-abiding professionals who represent not only corporate executives, but also workers, labor unions, trade associations, nonprofits, religious organizations, and academic institutions. At their best, lobbyists are advocates who work hard to understand the interests of their clients and use their knowledge of the legislative process to effectively educate key decision makers about the impacts of their decisions.
There is no denying that large corporations have much deeper pockets than small and mid-size businesses, nonprofits, and charities, the latter of which deserve equal representation. Thankfully, lobbying firms like Lobbyit are committed to ensuring that these organizations are heard on Capitol Hill by offering affordably-priced packages and transparent contractual arrangements. In a true democracy, everyone has a voice.