lobbying

lobbying

[lob-ee]
lobbying, practice and profession of influencing governmental decisions, carried out by agents who present the concerns of special interests to legislators and administrators. The term originated in the United States of the 1830s, when representatives of interest groups tended to congregate in the lobbies of Congress and state legislatures. It is now used in a broader sense to include attempts to influence any governmental actions.

In the United States lobbying has become an accepted and ubiquitous part of the political system; while federal and state legislators are technically representatives of geographical areas, they spend much of their time with lobbyists, and can be said at times to be responding to interest groups rather than to their constituents, to the degree that legislation drafted by lobbyists is sometimes introduced. Organizations such as corporations, financial institutions, labor unions, professional associations, educational groups, medical interests, farm alliances, and various public interest and social issue groups like Common Cause, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the National Rifle Association, and the National Coalition for the Homeless maintain permanent lobbies in Washington and in state capitals to protect and further their interests. Lobbyists often deal directly with governmental decisionmakers, supplying technical information, making political threats or promises, and supplying friendship, entertainment, and other favors. Their indirect methods include the use of the mass media and mailing and telephone campaigns (some purporting to come from the "grass roots") and the organization of campaign funding vehicles known as political action committees (PACs).

The potential for corruption, especially bribery of officials, has given lobbying an unsavory connotation and has led to many attempts to regulate it, first at the state and later at the national level. The basic federal law has been the Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946, which requires registration of and regular financial reports from all individuals and agents seeking to influence legislation. In 1995, Congress passed a new bill intended to strengthen registration and disclosure requirements and to include within the definition of "lobbyist" some, e.g., lawyers, who had not previously been so designated.

See V. O. Key, Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups (5th ed. 1964); A. M. Scott et al., Congress and Lobbies (1966); S. Farkas, Urban Lobbying (1971); G. Wooton, Interest Groups (1971); M. T. Hayes, Lobbyists and Legislators (1984); C. Barnes, The Politics of Policy-Making and Pressure Groups (1987); R. G. Kaiser, So Damn Much Money (2009).

Any attempt by a group or individual to influence the decisions of government. The term originated in 19th-century efforts to influence the votes of legislators, generally in the lobby outside a legislative chamber. The effort may be a direct appeal to a decision maker in either the executive or legislative branches, or it may be indirect (e.g., through attempts to influence public opinion). It may include oral or written efforts of persuasion, campaign contributions, public-relations campaigns, research supplied to legislative committees, and formal testimony before such committees. A lobbyist may be a member of a special-interest group, a professional willing to represent any group, or a private individual. In the U.S., the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act (1946) requires that lobbyists and the groups they represent register and report contributions and expenditures.

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Lobbying includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents or organized groups. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying.

Etymology

The supposed origins of the term "lobbyist" vary. The BBC holds that lobbying comes from the gathering of Members of Parliament and peers in the hallways (or lobbies) of Houses of Parliament before and after parliamentary debates. The modern British Parliament was established by the Acts of Union in 1707. One story states that the term originated at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, where it was used by Ulysses S. Grant to describe the political wheelers and dealers frequenting the hotel's lobby in order to access Grant who was often found there, enjoying a cigar and brandy.

In her book Lobbying and Advocacy: Winning Strategies, Resources, Recommendations, Ethics and Ongoing Compliance for Lobbyists and Washington Advocates , Deanna Gelak, a former president of the American League of Lobbyists, quotes an appearance of the term "lobbying" in print as early as 1820:

Viewpoints on lobbying

Though many see lobbying as a potential corruption to the system, others disagree. Bill Clinton defended his wife's reception of lobbyist money for her campaign by saying:

Lobbyists are registered, they register with the federal government and can give the same amount of money, $2300, anybody else can. That's not going to influence you. What gives the lobbyists influence is the people who hire them to work for them. It's all the people they represent. So all these people who don't take money from lobbyists, they take money from the lobbyists' spouses, their children, their brothers, their sisters, from all the people they represent. It's a distinction without a difference, I think. There's no significant financial gain, because there's not that many lobbyists. If we're going to take money from the guys who pay the lobbyists, why treat them [the lobbyists] as less than full citizens?

Economist Thomas Sowell defends corporate lobbying as simply an example of a group having better knowledge of its interests than the people at large do of theirs.

Lobbying by country

United States

Many jurisdictions, in response to concerns of corruption, require the formal registration of lobbyists who come in contact with government representatives. Since 1995, under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act most persons who are paid to make direct "lobbying contacts" with members of Congress and officials of the federal executive branch are required to register and file reports twice a year. If lobbyist neglect to register, they are susceptible to criminal charges and harsh penalties. However, there are ongoing conflicts between organizations that wish to impose greater restrictions on lobbying activities, and groups that argue that such restrictions infringe on the right to petition government officials, which is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

For example, in January 2004, the U.S. Senate considered S. 1, an omnibus "ethics reform" bill. This bill contained a provision (Section 220) to establish federal regulation, for the first time, of certain efforts to encourage "grassroots lobbying." The bill said that "'grassroots lobbying' means the voluntary efforts of members of the general public to communicate their own views on an issue to Federal officials or to encourage other members of the general public to do the same." This provision was opposed by a broad array of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Right to Life Committee, and the National Rifle Association, who argued that attempts by constituents to influence their representatives are at the heart of representational democracy, and that neither such contacts nor efforts to motivate such contacts should be considered "lobbying." On January 18, 2007, the U.S. Senate voted 55-43 to strike Section 220 from the bill. However, other proposed regulations on "grassroots lobbying" remain under consideration in the 110th Congress.

Another controversial bill, the "Executive Branch Reform Act, H.R. 985, would require over 8,000 Executive Branch officials to report into a public database nearly any "significant contact" from any "private party." Although promoted as a regulation on "lobbyists," the bill defines "private party" as "any person or entity" except "Federal, State, or local government official or a person representing such an official." This, under the proposal, anyone who contacts a covered government official is in effect deemed to be a lobbyist, unless the communicator is another government official or government staff person. The bill defines "significant contact" to be any "oral or written communication (including electronic communication) . . . in which the private party seeks to influence official action by any officer or employee of the executive branch of the United States." The bill is supported by some organizations as an expansion of "government in the sunshine," but other groups oppose it as an infringing on the right to petition by making it impossible for citizens to communicate their views on controversial issues without having their names and viewpoints entered into a government database. The U.S. Department of Justice has raised constitutional and other objections to the bill.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected congressional efforts to regulate grassroots communications as a form of "lobbying," on constitutional grounds. In 1953, in a suit involving a congressional resolution authorizing a committee to investigate "all lobbying activities intended to influence, encourage, promote, or retard legislation," the Supreme Court narrowly construed "lobbying activities" to mean only "direct" lobbying (which the Court described as "representations made directly to the Congress, its members, or its committees"), and rejected a broader interpretation of "lobbying" out of First Amendment concerns.. The Supreme Court thereby affirmed the earlier decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said:

Effectiveness

While lobbyists' precise influence over legislative decision-making in the United States can never be fully determined, non-profit organizations such as the Center for Responsive Politics, or Opensecrets, attempt to track money in politics, and its effect on elections and public policy.

European Union

History

Lobbying in Brussels was only born in the late 1970s. Up to that time, "diplomatic lobbying" at the highest levels remained the rule. There were few lobbyists involved in the system and except for some business associations, representative offices were rarely used. The event that sparked the explosion of lobbying was the first direct election of the European Parliament in 1979. Up until then the Parliament consisted complex, and companies increasingly felt the need of an expert local presence to find out what was going on in Brussels. The foundation of lobbying was therefore the need to provide information. From that developed the need to influence the process actively and effectively. The next important step in lobbying development was the Single European Act of 1986 which both created the qualified majority vote for taking decisions in the Council and enhanced the role of the Parliament, again making EU legislation more complex and lobbying more important and attractive for stakeholders. In short, the stronger the EU developed from a Member States organization to its own political player in the world, the more policy areas it covered, the more important it became as a lobbying target. With the EU enlargement in 2004 this development has taken a further step, bringing in not only a lot more players and stakeholders but also a wide range of different political cultures and traditions.

In the wake of the Abramoff scandal in Washington and in light of the massive impact that this had on the lobbying scene in the U.S.A., the rules for lobbying in the EU — which until now only consist of a non-binding code of conduct — may also be tightened.

Current practice

The fragmented nature of EU institutional structure provides multiple channels through which organized interests may seek to influence policy-making. Lobbying takes place at the European level itself and within the existing national states. The most important institutional targets are the Commission, the Council, and the European Parliament. The Commission has a monopoly on the initiative in Community decision-making. Since it has the power to draft initiatives, it makes it ideally suited as an arena for interest representation. There are three main channels of indirect lobbying of the Council. First, interest groups routinely lobby the national delegations in Brussels. The second indirect means of lobbying the Council is for interest groups to lobby members of the many Council-working groups. The third means of influencing the Council is directly via national governments. As a consequence of the co-decision procedures, the European Parliament attracts attention from lobbyists who target the rapporteur and the chairman of the committee. The rapporteurs are MEPs appointed by Committees to prepare the parliament’s response to the Commission’s proposal and to those measures taken by the Parliament itself.

There are currently around 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels (consultants, lawyers, associations, corporations, NGOs etc.) seeking to influence the EU’s legislative process. Some 2,600 special interest groups have a permanent office in Brussels. Their distribution is roughly as follows: European trade federations (32%), consultants (20%), companies (13%), NGOs (11%), national associations (10%), regional representations (6%), international organizations (5%) and think tanks (1%), (Lehmann, 2003, pp iii).

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom lobbying traditionally referred to the attempt to influence an MP's vote by either their fellow parliamentary colleagues, by one of their constituents or by any outside organisation. Currently the term often refers to the more narrow usage of the operation of "lobbyists" hired to represent the views of an organisation. This industry has been steadily growing in recent years and is now estimated to be worth $1.9 billion and employ 14,000 people. A recent report by the Hansard Society has shown some MPs are approached over 100 times a week..

The Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) is a self regulatory body for UK public affairs companies. Its code of conduct promotes 'transparency' and forbids certain practices, such as making payments to MPs..

In addition to "open" lobbying, the United Kingdom, political parties have been accused of trying to raise campaign funds by offering peerages and other honors. Since peers sit in the House of Lords, part of the UK legislature, they are in a position to initiate or amend Bills on their way to becoming Acts of Parliament - a very influential position. The rules of Parliament do, however, require participants in debates to 'declare their interest'. The 'sale' of peerages is a criminal offence. To circumvent this law, it is alleged that some contributions thus solicited, are given not as outright gifts but as loans.

France

In France, the political system does not integrate the lobbying practice. Indeed, owing to Rousseau’s influence, the influence of particular interests is currently considered as bad. The state is seen as the only body able to define what French call “general interest”. While lobbying has always been practiced in France, organized lobbying only made a significant appearance in France in the early 1980s. Since then, it has steadily grown; many interest groups routinely seek to influence the French institutions as the Government and the French Parliament (“National Assembly” and “Senate”). In order to make up the lost time, more and more French enterprises try to organize their own lobbies by creating their own public affairs department. In recent years, growing numbers of grassroots and grasstop lobbies have been organized by citizen groups, representing interests such as genetically modified organisms and software piracy.

But there is currently no regulation at all for lobbying activities in France and, as a consequence, this practice suffers from a lack of transparency. There is no regulated access to the French institutions and no register. For example, the internal rule of the National Assembly (art. 23 and 79) forbid to members of Parliament to be linked with a particular interest. However, MPs don’t have to declare their interest and the list of MPs' assistants is not public. At last, there is no rule at all for consultation of interest groups by the Parliament and the Government. Nevertheless, a recent parliamentary initiative (motion for a resolution) has been launched by several MPs so as to establish a register for representatives of interest groups and lobbyists who intend to lobby the MPs. The purpose of this initiative is to introduce standards of conduct and access to the National Assembly. Through the use of a register, these standards of conduct and access will enable the Assembly to identify and maintain a list of the representatives of interest groups who follow legislative activity and to supervise fully the access of those representatives to the National Assembly. This motion has not been adopted yet.

Eastern Europe

Only countries where lobbying is regulated in parliament bills are: Georgia (1998), Lithuania (2001) Poland (2005) and Hungary (2006). All require registration of professional lobbyists. So far, there is no complex lobbying regulation in other European countries. There were many attempts, but with no satisfactory results.

References

Bibliography

External links

United States

Europe

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