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Who Should Legislative Representatives Represent - Lobbyists or You?

Updated on April 25, 2018

Legislative Representation

Chester Bowles, a US diplomat and economist once said, “Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.”[1] Yet even with this advice, we still allow our congressional representatives to daily pass more and more laws that directly affect us as a people without requiring that our voices be heard. Our congressmen have the choice when each of these bills comes up to either support them or go against them, and with each bill that they either support or refuse they are representing someone. When a person walks into a voting booth and cast their vote for whom they believe should represent them, they may expect this legislative representative to represent the voter, their constituent. However, this is rarely the case in the modern political playing field. Representatives will generally fit into one of three categories: those who vote to represent their constituents exactly, those who vote to represent the organizations that put them into office, and those who vote according to what they believe is best for the people and country. All of the three categories represent someone, yet they are not all equal. This paper will now discuss the different ways and people that legislators represent and how much power financial supporters should have over the candidate.

The US Capitol and Senate Fountain in Washington, D.C.
The US Capitol and Senate Fountain in Washington, D.C. | Source

What is a lobbyist?

The Representational view for the United States government is when the legislative representative supports issues exactly as their constituents wish them to. In 1778, delegates from Massachusetts issued the Essex Result, stating that they believed that legislative representatives “should think, feel, and act like [their constituents].”[2] If their constituents believe that eating red velvet cake daily should be a law, then the representative should acknowledge this view and then act accordingly to represent this viewpoint in a lawful manner. James Madison speaks about the power of representation in his essay, Federalist Number 10. “…the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good then if pronounced by the people themselves…”[3] The purpose of the representatives is to represent the people as a whole and their “voice.” If the delegate represents his own views then he is doing no more good than if we had a true democracy, but when he does as he should and represents the people as a whole and what they truly believe is the best and most needed thing, he accomplishes what our government was originally set up to do. The delegates who issued The Essex result also believed that financial backers for a candidate should have no more say over his political support than any other person in his representative area.[4]

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As the Essex delegates supported the representational view, they also declared, “Elections ought also to be free. No bribery, corruption, or undue influence should have place.”[5] This in effect is arguing against the representation view of political organizations. They were warning against problems that we are still having today. According to The New York Time’s website, in April of 2009, Arlen Specter a Republican senator with a 29-year record decided to become a Democrat.[6] After a person supports something for 29 years, it takes a major cause to switch their position on it this suddenly. If a reader will research the situation just a little bit further they will find out that in his next election, he would be, competing with another Republican, Mr. Toomey, who most believed would to win the election.[7] As soon as Mr. Specter lost his party support, he essentially lost most of his voters. Therefore, the organization of the Republic party was where his power was originating from and who was essentially electing Mr. Specter, and not his actual constituents. The benefits received from organizations are not only power, but also money. When Mr. Specter switched to the Democratic label, President Obama said that he “would happily campaign for Mr. Specter and raise money for him if it was necessary.”[8] This is obviously a problem. Mr. Specter will not be earning his position because of his talents, ethics, or record; he will be receiving his position from those that support the President. Once the candidate has received his office because of someone they will be in their debt, and once in their debt they begin to represent their true constituents even less, and instead the organization or person. Even though he uses the power of the political parties to his utmost advantage, he himself argues against the power that they hold quoting President Kennedy when he said that, “sometimes party asks too much.”

Although lobbying has been used for good, there have been many scandals of politicians having improper relationships with lobbyists. For instance, the scandal caused by McCain's relationship with Vivki Iseman.
Although lobbying has been used for good, there have been many scandals of politicians having improper relationships with lobbyists. For instance, the scandal caused by McCain's relationship with Vivki Iseman. | Source

There is also another problem with Mr. Specter’s political game, which many other political figures play. According to the New York Time’s, he stated, “I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.”[9] The people voted him into his office to represent them. They did not vote for him so that he could do as he pleases but rather to vote how his constituents think or feel about issues. This attitudinal view is perhaps the most unsettling of all the types of legislative representation. In an extreme case, a senator decides that they have no interest in being voted back into office or know that no one will compete with them for the position, and then they may begin to act according to only what they believe or want regardless of what the people in their district say or do. Say the people called out for their daily red velvet cake, and the representative knew what the people wanted, but he enjoyed chocolate cake more. When he decides to lobby for a bill to outlaw red velvet cake, even though that was what his constituents wanted, he is acting on his personal attitudinal viewpoint. It may not even be purposeful; representatives from the House of Representatives generally have views and opinions closer to that of the voters, while Senators are more likely not to be as aware of the public opinion on certain matters.[10]

Even though we may go and vote in every election, it does not mean that at the end of the day who is in office is representing us. They may be representing their constituents, themselves, or the organization that got them into office. They are called upon to “guard against the cabals of a few,”[11] Regardless the government is too important to leave to politicians, and it is our duty as a people to continuously check who is representing us, understand what is going on in the legislative system, and make sure that our representative knows how we feel on items. Regardless of what some may do, it is the duty of our Congressmen and Senators to represent the common good and what the people believe is right, and not who is paying for their campaign.

Foot Notes

[1] Chester Bowles, QuotationsPage, , 23 Nov. 2009 [on-line]:

[2] Oliver Handlin, “The Essex Result,” The Popular Sources of Political Authority: Documents on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard, 1966. 4.

[3] James Madison, “Federalist 10,” on Constitution Society, 17 Nov. 2009 [on-line]:, 16.

[4] Handlin, “The Essex Result,” 5.

[5] Handlin, “The Essex Result,” 5.

[6] Carl Husle, “Specter Switches Parties,” on The Caucus, 23 Nov. 2009 [on-line]:, 1-3.

[7] Carl Husle, “Specter Switches Parties,” on The Caucus, 23 Nov. 2009 [on-line]:, 16, 21.

[8] Ibid, 17.

[9] Hulse, “Specter Switches Parties,” 26.

[10] Wilson, James Q., Dilulio, John J. Jr., American Government, 11th edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008) 329.

[11] James Madison, “The Federalist No. 10,” on Constitution Society, 17 Nov. 2009 [on-line]:


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      4 years ago

      That's a smart way of looinkg at the world.


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