By SAM ELUTO
January 18, 2017
“Even though we associate lobbyists with massive multinational oil corporations or big pharma, lobbying can cover many issues that otherwise would not receive the proper attention without money behind it.”
A key element to Trump’s victory over the Clinton campaign was the “Crooked Hillary” image that Trump successfully painted of the Democratic Party nominee. The insinuation reminded voters of Hillary’s track record of collusion with the financial world, from her paid speeches, to Wall Street firms and to her vast campaign network funded by massive donations from corporations.
Bernie Sanders similarly made strong gains in the primaries when he criticized Clinton for being in the intersection of wealth and power by accepting and participating in such lobbying practices. Very rarely do issues surrounding the bylaws of governance have substantial bipartisan support. If it is popular opinion to rid ourselves of lobbyists, why has Congress not taken active steps to sever itself out of such connections?
As Congressional approval numbers dip into the single digits, regardless of such widely held opinions, at first it would seem that Congress acts on its own whim. It could be that they are so reliant on lobbyists for funding that to advocate against it would be political suicide. Money becomes the fuel to ignite candidates into the position of an elected official.
While there can be dangers with money influencing politics, lobbying has functions that are essential to Washington.
Assuming that large amounts of money is raised without courting to the interests of those who donated is naive. However, the lines between legality and illegality begin to blur as policy decisions begin to be shaped by those who donated to the politicians. Ethical boundaries begin to become undone as politicians are voted out or intentionally leave. They switch over to the private sector and use the connections they made as a lawmaker to then advance their career as a lobbyist.
While there can be dangers with money influencing politics, lobbying has functions that are essential to Washington. Many congressmen belong to multiple committees, they have to constantly campaign to raise money and must meet to pass bills. Additionally, there are topics that are hyper specialized, where there are individual congressman recognized throughout Washington on their wealth of knowledge in a particular subfield. These subfields can range from missile defense systems to farm subsidies, but an entire legislative body wants a diversity of opinions.
Instead of every congressmen ask them about their niche, congressmen can consult lobbyists about the issue in question for a broader range of opinions. Time is valuable and research is a tradeoff that many cannot afford; therefore, lobbyists can provide information into bills that can be hundreds of pages long.
Even though we associate lobbyists with massive multinational oil corporations or big pharma, lobbying can cover many issues that otherwise would not receive the proper attention without money behind it.
Animal rights organizations such as PETA or groups dedicated to preservation of the environment like Greenpeace or Sierra Club strategically use lobbying techniques to advance their agenda. These organizations can help rise above the hurdles that are in place within the Constitution to cause gridlock. Money becomes the lubricant that can speed up sensitive bills.
Any move to restrict lobbying will have to take into account the unique time deficits of politicians and how to effectively engage with the gaps of knowledge that lobbying has been filling. Money is a way to motivate politicians into producing policy. On the flip side, it can also foster massive corruption that can be counterproductive to our Democratic ideals.