While Washington lobbying as a profession has become a euphemism for shady practices and influence-peddling, I've known it to be a respectable trade, representing the large and varied interests of honest constituencies who want to make sure their views are fully presented and heard in the nation's capital.And, of course, there is that whole First Amendment thing. You know - the right to petition the government. There are laws governing what lobbyists can do. And, if they or the congressmen they worked with broke the law, lock 'em up. However, don't forget that a lot of what lobbyists do is perfectly legal.
Lobbyists here represent just about everyone, from mail carriers to big oil, from small businesses to the Fortune 500, from nursing homes to giant HMOs, from the homeless to the housing industry, from firearm companies to gun owners. These lobbying organizations were, by and large, begun by honest, hardworking people with collective interests who came together to protect and promote their causes, businesses, livelihood and legal rights.
There are very large, well-heeled lobby forces here that represent the big and the powerful, and modestly funded groups that represent the small and the weak. Individually, their voices are disbursed and unheard. But when they band together, they become a force to be reckoned with in the most powerful centers of the government.
They represent veterans, senior citizens, real estate brokers, bankers, farmers, doctors and nurses -- the full panoply of our country's citizenry.
In most cases, when a lobbyist calls on a lawmaker, the only thing they have to offer are their arguments or grievances in behalf of their position on some legislation, regulatory rule or misfortune.
First, it is not illegal for someone, even a lobbyist, to make a campaign contribution to a member of Congress within the limits set by law. It is not illegal for former members of Congress or their staff members to set up a lobbying practice, providing they abide by the time limits before they can lobby members of Congress. It's also not illegal for lawmakers to attend a charity golf event or some other fundraising gathering and have one's expenses picked up by the sponsoring group, provided you abide by all the reporting requirements.And, since interest groups tend to support politicians who agree with them, there will be a correlation between how politicians vote and the groups that supported them. I'm just afraid, that in the scandal-ridden atmosphere that we're inhabiting right now, that people will assume that just because a lobbyist talked to a politician or gave a donation that everyone in the transaction was corrupt.