Lobbying Explained

Lobbying (also lobby) is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by many different types of people and organized groups, including individuals in the private sector, corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or advocacy groups (interest groups). Lobbyists may be among a legislator's constituents, meaning a voter or bloc of voters within his or her electoral district, or not; they may engage in lobbying as a business, or not. Professional lobbyists are people whose business is trying to influence legislation on behalf of a group or individual who hires them. Individuals and nonprofit organizations can also lobby as an act of volunteering or as a small part of their normal job (for instance, a CEO meeting with a representative about a project important to his/her company, or an activist meeting with his/her legislator in an unpaid capacity). Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying that has become influential.

The ethics and morality of lobbying are dual-edged. Lobbying is often spoken of with contempt, when the implication is that people with inordinate socioeconomic power are corrupting the law (twisting it away from fairness) in order to serve their own conflict of interest. But another side of lobbying is making sure that others' interests are duly defended against others' corruption, or even simply making sure that minority interests are fairly defended against mere tyranny of the majority. For example, a medical association, or a trade association of health insurance companies, may lobby a legislature in order to counteract the influence of tobacco companies, in which case the lobbying would be viewed by most people as justified (duly defending against others' corruption). The difficulty in drawing objective lines between which lobbyists are "good lobbyists" and which ones are "bad ones" is compounded by the cleverness with which lobbyists or their clients can speciously argue that their own lobbying is of the "good" kind. At heart, the effort to influence legislation is a power struggle. As in other forms of power struggle, such as war or law enforcement, motives range from predation to self-defense to fighting for justice, and the dividing line between predation and justice is subject to rationalization.

Etymology

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.[1] 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 who frequented the hotel's lobby to access Grant - who was often there to enjoy a cigar and brandy.[2] Others have made the claim that this story of the word's origin is erroneous [2]

The term "lobbying" appeared in print as early as 1820:.[3]

Dictionary definitions:

Overview

Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying.[7] [8] [9] [10]

Lobby groups may concentrate their efforts on the legislatures, where laws are created, but may also use the judicial branch to advance their causes. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for example, filed suits in state and federal courts in the 1950s to challenge segregation laws. Their efforts resulted in the Supreme Court declaring such laws unconstitutional.

They may use a legal device known as amicus curiae, literally "friend of the court," briefs to try to influence court cases. Briefs are written documents filed with a court, typically by parties to a lawsuit. Amines curiae briefs are briefs filed by people or groups who are not parties to a suit. These briefs are entered into the court records, and give additional background on the matter being decided upon. Advocacy groups use these briefs both to share their expertise and to promote their positions.

Lobbying by country

United Kingdom

See main article: Lobbying in the United Kingdom.

The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee argued that while there are shortcomings in the regulation of the lobbying industry in the United Kingdom, "The practice of lobbying in order to influence political decisions is a legitimate and necessary part of the democratic process. Individuals and organizations reasonably want to influence decisions that may affect them, those around them, and their environment. Government in turn needs access to the knowledge and views that lobbying can bring."

Many recent MPs and in particular Ministers are recruited by lobby firms and lobbyists have been recruited by ministers as 'special advisors' using what is termed the Revolving door of influence. In 2009 the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee recommended that a statutory register of lobbying activity and lobbyists would improve transparency to the dealings between Whitehall decision makers and outside interests.

Parliament controversially responded to this recommendation by saying that self-regulation was more practical.[11] The Conservative leader, David Cameron, predicted that it was "the next big scandal waiting to happen" and was one that had "tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money".[12]

United States

See main article: Lobbying in the United States.

The ability of individuals, groups, and corporations to lobby the government is protected by the right to petition[13] in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Lobbyists use time spent with legislators and executive branch officials to explain the goals of the organizations they represent, and to present those organizations' points of view. Another important function of lobbyists is to serve as a conduit for information flowing the other way, from officials to the people employing the lobbyists; they can serve as legislative tacticians, determining the best way for an organization to fulfill its goals.

Lobbying activities are also performed at the state level, and lobbyists try to influence legislation in the state legislatures in each of the 50 states. At the municipal level, some lobbying activities occur with city council members and county commissioners, especially in the larger cities and more populous counties.

Since 1998, 43 percent of the 198 members of Congress who left government to join the private sector have registered to lobby using the 'revolving door of influence'. The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 and Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 increased regulation and transparency. In 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama signed two executive orders and three presidential memoranda on his first day in office governing how former lobbyists can be employed in the government, and restrictions on lobbying once leaving the government.[14]

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service makes a clear distinction for nonprofit organizations between lobbying and advocacy, limiting the former to "asking policymakers to take a specific position on a specific piece of legislation, or that ask others to ask the same"; in common language, the definition of lobbying is normally broader. Other activities that seek to influence policies, possibly including public demonstrations and the filing of "friend of the court briefs", are termed as "advocacy".[15]

European Union

The more political influence the European Union gains on a global level, and the more policy areas it covers, the more interesting it becomes for lobbyists. With its 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.

Currently around 15,000 Brussels-based lobbyists (consultants, lawyers, associations, corporations, NGOs etc.) seek 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).[16]

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.[17] 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, lobbying 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.

Lobbying in Brussels was born only 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 of a 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 further more important and attractive for stakeholders.

In the wake of the Abramoff scandal in Washington and the massive impact that this had on the lobbying scene in the United States, the rules for lobbying in the EU—which until now consist of only a non-binding code of conduct-—may also be tightened.[18]

France

In France, the political system does not integrate the lobbying practice. Much French republican thought has been suspicious of the claims of "particular interests," which are often contrasted with the "general interest" of the nation. This is one interpretation of Rousseau's Social Contract, for example. So while lobbying has always been practiced in France, organized lobbying made a significant appearance in France only 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”). 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 specific to France, but there is one for the European Union[19] where French lobbyists can register themselves[20] . 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)[21] 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.

Australia

Over the past twenty years lobbying in Australia has grown from a small industry of a few hundred employees to a multi billion dollar a year industry. Lobbying has become a political fact of life and is now endemic in local, state and federal government. It is not just the local councillors, state and federal politicians being lobbied. What was once the preserve of big multi-national companies and at a more local level, property developers, has morphed into an industry that would employ more than 10,000 people and represent every facet of human endeavour. Lobbyists must organise a pass to get access to the federal parliament. However, this is not necessary as some are simply signed in as guests of Senators or Members on the day of their visit. When lobbyists visit most federal government departments they must also sign a register. The Parliamentary Pass must be signed by two parliamentarians. It is administered by the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) and has the enforcement of the Criminal Code Act 1995. The Pass is valid for 2 years.There are some advocacy groups in Australia that can lobby without passes. For example in 1995, following the lobbying done by The Affiliated Residential Park Residents Association Incorporated (ARPRA) and other interested tenant organizations, the Government created new legislation to provide residential park residents with improved protection. The Residential Parks Act of 1996 became the operating tool for the conduct of residents and park owners alike. In 1998, following further lobbying for the legislative review and revision of the 1996 Act, the Residential Parks Act of 1998 became law.

Other countries

Only countries where lobbying is regulated in parliament bills include:

See also

See main article: List of basic public affairs topics.

Bibliography

External links

United States

Europe

Notes and References

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/82529.stm BBC Definition of "lobbying"
  2. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5167187 NPR - A Lobbyist by Any Other Name?
  3. Deanna Gelak (previous president of the American League of Lobbyists) mentioned this in her book Lobbying and Advocacy: Winning Strategies, Resources, Recommendations, Ethics and Ongoing Compliance for Lobbyists and Washington Advocates, TheCapitol.Net, 2008, LobbyingAndAdvocacy.com
  4. Web site: lobbying. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.Com.
  5. News: lobbying. BBC News. 1 October 2008. 24 March 2010. London.
  6. Web site: lobbist. Random House Unabridged Dictionary. 2006.
  7. http://www.npaction.org/article/articleview/76/1/248 Non-Profit Action description of "Lobbying Versus Advocacy: Legal Definitions"
  8. http://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_index_subjects/Lobbying_vrd.htm U.S. Senate definition of Lobbying
  9. Andrew Bounds and Marine Formentinie in Brussels, EU Lobbyists Face Tougher Regulation, Financial Times, August 16, 2007.
  10. http://www.encyclopediecanadienne.ca/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0004733
  11. Web site: Government rejects call for lobbying register. Civil Society. 2010-03-03.
  12. News: David Cameron warns lobbying is next political scandal. 2010-03-03. The Daily Telegraph. London. Andrew. Porter. 8 February 2010.
  13. Web site: The Right to Petition. Illinois First Amendment Center.
  14. http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/ethics/ Ethics
  15. Web site: Lobbying Versus Advocacy: Legal Definitions. NP Action. 2010-03-02.
  16. http://ec.europa.eu/civil_society/interest_groups/docs/workingdocparl.pdf Lobbying in the European Union: current rules and practices
  17. Kierkegaard, Sylvia (2005) How the Cookie (almost crumbled). Computer Law and Security Report Vol.21 Issue 4
  18. http://europa.eu/documents/comm/green_papers/pdf/com2006_194_en.pdf Green Paper on European Transparency Initiative
  19. http://ec.europa.eu/news/justice/091028_fr.htm Pleins feux sur les lobbies dans l'UE (28 October 2009)
  20. http://www.dsmw.org/lobbying.html Le lobbying passe aussi par le web (12 March 2012)
  21. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/18/10/38944365.pdf French National Assembly : Motion for a Resolution on Lobbying (21 November 2006)
  22. http://lobbyists.info/glossary.cfm GLOSSARY
  23. http://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/lobby_eng.htm
  24. Web site: Lobbying Act, Regulations and Code of Conduct. September 10, 2010. Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. January 15, 2012.