Lobbyist and Its Influence Our Democracy
Lobbyist: Using Money to Influence Our Democracy
The 1st Amendment: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly and Petition.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
-Congress September 25, 1789
Lobbyist are people that attempt to influence political leaders to pass or oppose legislation. Once upon a time, this was a benefit to our democracy, today lobbying is becoming more about personal gain. As our world continues to advance in media and technology, lobbyist is using money, power as influence to persuade political officials. The influence lobbying has on our democracy, should we have more stricter regulations?
Topography of Lobbying in Modern Public Policy
Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 as amended by the Honest Leadership open Government Act of 2007, requires electronic filing for any organizations that participates in lobbying. When lobbyist files they must include:
- General Lobbying Issues
- The Chamber of congress and federal agencies contacted
- Specific issues lobbying has engaged
The misfortune of this Act does not require these companies to disclose the identities of the political contacts. Today, with so much corruption, there needs to be a new rule that lobbyist is required to disclose political officials. This information can show where each politician stands on their views on policy. Lobbying today is not for the people, by the people, it for the organizations and personal gains of the politicians. Lobbyist can use tactics that can change the publics tomography in our democracy. According to Terrance G. Gabel and Clifford D. Scott (2011), one example of tactics used, is Issue advocacy Advertising and other political communications pertaining to an issue aimed at influencing public perceptions of politicians or garnering support for sponsor’s view on the issue. This tactic helps politicians get their views to the public while saving money as well. They can use the saved money for other projects. This seems like a great way to get views on policy out to the people, but today more lobbyist is using money to buy these officials to speak on behalf of their views for person gain of the organization.
Lobbying Interest Groups in American Politics
Interest groups in American politics is growing at an alarming rate and can impact the future of our democracy. In 2012, nonprofit group Planned parenthood spent large sums of money to promote their political views. Today we are seeing more donations being channeled through nonprofit organizations. This is because non profit organizations fall under the IRS code 501(c), which limits their engagement in political activities. Donors to these organizations have started channeling money to nonprofit organization that can be linked to a political official. These donations to the nonprofit organization do not disclose the donor and is considered dark money in political. Political officials may create a nonprofit organization to receive donations from major companies that can assist in promoting the candidate’s views. The IRS tax code is opening doors for dark money to continue in our democracy which can affect the people it is supposed to serve. As stated by Drew Dimmery and Andrew Peterson (2016), Crossroads GPS, a conservative 501(c)(4) organization, for example,
spent $190 million overall as reported to the IRS in 2012 but reported to the federal election commission (FEC) that only around $70 million of that was election- related spending. One can only imagine other groups using their nonprofit status for money laundering. Lobbying with money has doubled in our democracy, but the soft money has declined which indicates that more companies are going the dark route for political officials.
Federal bureaucracy is the complexed organizations of the appointed, meaning these positions are not elected by the people. These are the small desk employees of government such as the US postal service, Amtrak, Federal trade commission etc. With an estimated of 2.6 million people working in this branch, they are responsible for administering the law. The iron triangle is bureaucrats, and congressional subcommittee members work exclusively together to enact policies acceptable to the members of the triangle. One may assume lobbying only happens to higher political officials, but this is false lobbying can also be directed to the subgovernment. Bureaucracy can also lobby the lobbyist by mobilizing interest groups of their own. This influence on democracy can have major impact on the people. If combined with money and some federal power of this branch, one can get laws pass on their behalf. Being the subgovernment still gives one power to control the outcome. Also these officials are appointed and not elected by the people, so they are chosen to carry out the views of the administration that appointed them. This is also dangerous for our democracy because these encounters happen behind close doors.
The Role of the Media and Lobbying
We are in an era of social media such as Twitter and FaceBook. We also are attached to our cell phones that gives us instant access to information. Many are just an app away of being influenced by lobbyist. Using the media is becoming popular everyday and lobbying through these communication tools can either hurt or help in influencing the public on policy. One may use social media as way spread awareness, get feedback on your views and widen your audience. This also opens the door for corruption in democracy. Today, our government uses Twitter to get daily information out to the public. The president will tweet messages that threatens other public officials and make false statement for personal gain. Social media is having a big impact on the people and if not regulated soon, I fear our democracy will continue to suffer.
Should we have more stricter regulations on lobbying? Yes, as technology advances in today’s era, we need to start acting on how information about policy is being injected into the public. Lobbying influence will continue to grow if we do not put regulations on the special interest groups. Even with nonprofit organizations, lobbying is becoming corrupt by using these organization to fund political officials’ campaign. Our fathers did not plan on this when they wrote the constitution, so it is up to the people to start fighting for regulations on lobbyist and their influence on our democracy.