The importance of lobbyists in government reform

Overview[ edit ] Political scientist Thomas R. Dye once said that politics is about battling over scarce governmental resources: And the battling for influence has happened in every organized society since the beginning of civilization, whether it was Ancient AthensFlorence during the time of the MediciLate Imperial Chinaor the present-day United States. If voting is a general way for a public to control a government, lobbying is a more specific, targeted effort, focused on a narrower set of issues.

The importance of lobbyists in government reform

What Is the Role of a Definition of "Lobbying"? Tuesday, July 29th, Robert Wechsler An interesting debate about lobbying and advisory groups can be found on the Austin Bulldog website. The complaint alleges that the CAG member is an unregistered lobbyist for a real estate consulting company, and that the resolution establishing CAG says that lobbyists or employees of lobbyists, registered or not, may not be members.

The CAG member insists she has never lobbied, nor has her consulting firm. There are two important issues here: I have dealt with the latter issue in three blog posts: There has to be a balancing of expertise with conflict of interest, and conflicts of interest are not limited to lobbyists.

The Definition of "Lobbying" Here is Austin's definition of "lobbying" from its lobbying code: The term lobby or lobbying shall not include a mere request for information or an inquiry about a municipal question, matters, or a procedure or communication to a City official which is incidental to other employment not for purpose of lobbying.

This is a typical, but far from ideal definition.


It puts too much emphasis on communication, but at least it includes indirect communication, so that efforts to get others to communicate are included what is known as "grass roots lobbying". What it leaves out is such lobbying activities as drafting ordinances and reports, advising and recommending lobbying strategies to a client, research, monitoring of bills, proceedings, meetings, and events, and doing what it takes to establish and maintain personal relationships with officials, where there is often no effort to influence or persuade with respect to any particular question.

A serious problem with Austin's definition of "lobbying" is its exception for public meetings which, I assume, would include written testimony presented to a public board.

Public testimony, and its preparation, is an important part of lobbying. It can consist of extensive arguments and documentation, including recommended language. The fact that citizens also speak at public meetings, and this is not considered lobbying, may be taken care of in the definition of "lobbyist.

The place to start when drafting a lobbying code is to decide what role the definition of "lobbying" or "lobbyist" is supposed to play. Is it supposed to be exclusive, so that only a few professional, full-time lobbyists will register? Or is it supposed to be inclusive, so that everyone whom the public would consider as engaging in lobbying activities will register and the public will have a full picture of who is trying to influence those who manage their community?

Since lobbying codes are part of government ethics, and appearance is central to government ethics, the best practice is not to split hairs, but rather to include everyone whose job in part or in whole is to seek to influence government decisions, and those for whom they work.

It may take more time, but it will provide the optimum amount of transparency, and there won't be a lot of gray areas that make it look like the government and special interests are trying to keep a lot of lobbying hidden from the public.

Anyone who seeks special benefits from a government, for herself or for her clients, needs to recognize that the public cannot know what she is saying to or seeking from officials, whether it is on one or the other side of the vague lines in the definition of "lobbying" and in the many exceptions to who must register as a lobbyist.

Recognizing how her work appears to the public, she should try to increase trust in the process she is shepherding her clients through by registering as a lobbyist, not only to be on the safe side for the benefit of herself and her clientsbut also because of the importance of appearance, trust, and transparency in government ethics.

Must "Lobbyists" Be Paid? One of the commenters to the article seeks to turn the table on the complainant, the president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council ANCby saying that she too is an unregistered lobbyist, who hides "under the guise of not being paid.

They lobby city hall constantly for their agenda" and are represented by pro bono counsel, one of whom drafted the ethics complaint. Should unpaid lobbyists, who represent not their personal interests for example, a homeowner asking a council member to oppose a neighborhood planbut rather an organization, not have to register and report on their contacts solely because they are not paid?

The importance of lobbyists in government reform

Should the public not have access to information about the lobbying on both sides of a matter? Of course they should be required to register. I was talking the other day to the head of a state good government group on this very topic. Since he is paid, he is a registered lobbyist.Although attacking lobbyists is a tactic for all the presidential candidates this year, commentator Brian Pallasch says lobbying is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, and.

Lobbying in the United States describes paid activity in which special interests hire well-connected professional companies, and state and local governments.

Lobbyists can be one type of government official, made by a group promoting lawsuit reform. Some lobbyists are now are using social media to reduce the cost of traditional. Jun 10,  · Discuss the importance of lobbyists in the present political environment.

What are lobbyists? To reform the system, every lobbyist will wine and dine Congress to assure they still have plenty of access. I am still for our Representative Republic form of Status: Resolved. An introduction to the ethical considerations in lobbying the government. Campus Safety.

Enrollment Services. Congress is debating lobby reform that would disallow lobbyists paying for congressional travel and lavish meals.

Local officials are faced with similar temptations-tickets to games or concerts, dinners in expensive restaurants, etc.

Lobbying and government ethics has ranked for too long behind other reform programs, most notably campaign finance reform. Campaign finance has absorbed a massive amount of reform energy and generated the better part of controversy about government reform now for many decades.

Jun 10,  · Discuss the importance of lobbyists in the present political environment. What are lobbyists? What do they do? Are lobbyist good or bad for the Government? To reform the system, every lobbyist will wine and dine Congress to assure they still have plenty of Resolved.

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