There is a widespread lack of understanding about lobbyist and lobbying today. Lobbying is “a deliberate attempt to influence political decisions through various forms of advocacy directed a policymakers on behalf of individuals, organizations, or groups.”
Technical lobbying, that is professional, does not include congressional testimony, public relations work, or advocacy on behalf of churches.
Lobbying and scandals
Every so often there is a scandal and talk rises in the culture about the negative aspects of lobbying, and certainly where influence is peddled there is an opportunity to take unscrupulous advantage of that influence. But we must remember that the basic right to lobby on behalf of one’s position is a critical part of our constitution’s guarantee of free speech. If we removed the right of private citizens to directly communicate with legislators we would destroy the form of democracy that we currently enjoy.
Ethical areas of concern for lobbying.
Fairness: There are many unfair ways of lobbying. Paying a legislator for a vote, for example, is a breach of fairness and is illegal. Other unfair techniques include gifts, often offered indirectly to lawmakers in return for favors. There is also a question of fairness surrounding access to politicians. People with professional connections, past or present, to a lawmaker would have unfair advantages.
Transparency: Sources of influence with access to politicians should be public knowledge. That is a given. Many regulations about the relationships of lobbyists to legislators require such transparency. Some have even advocated keeping legislators appointment books open for public scrutiny. In addition, last minute “earmarked” provisions attached to bills without anyone knowing about them present a profound lack of transparency.
Supporting the common good: In a perfect world, everyone would look out for the needs of others. In that world perhaps we wouldn’t have to regulate lobbying so carefully. The truth is, lobbyists are not paid to be fair or to represent both sides of an issue. The solution is making sure that all sides have some levels of access to inform and influence government officials.