Don't Blame The Lobbyists
Last week an article in The Washington Post provided a sneak peak into the world of K Street this election season. Apparently, the period between November and March, when a presidential transition is in the works, is the busiest time ever for lobbying firms. Which makes sense--it takes time for them to prepare strategies for working with new personnel and new policy priorities.
Reading the article got me thinking, though. Lobbyists get such a bad rap. Many associate the title with some sort of sleazy, unprincipled mercenary who tries to use money or gifts to influence the way elected officials vote. While I'm sure some lobbyists like that are circulating the halls of the Capitol Building, this is really a stereotype that may blind us to the reality--a reality we should work to change.
The truth is, many, if not most lobbyists are attorneys being paid (and paid well, to be sure) to do what they were trained to do--advocate persuasively on behalf of their client(s).
Think about it: with all the issues Congress takes up every year (what issue does Congress not get involved in?), someone has to educate the decision-makers about the myriad ways each change to our legal code will affect other laws, stakeholders, and constituents. Naturally, those stakeholders and constituents will seek to persuade the decision-makers to make the decisions most beneficial to their own interests. That is the reason why, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a jaw-dropping $3.22 Billion was spent last year to lobby politicians in Washington, D.C.
We shouldn't hate lobbyists for being the ones who do the job.
But here's what we should disdain: that the breadth of policy issues Congress takes up every year makes it virtually impossible for the average citizen to consistently follow what Congress and its agencies are doing or to intelligently engage his/her representatives on those issues. We should disdain the fact that we have passively allowed Washington, D.C. to accrue so much power.
Congress was never meant to be involved at all in many of the areas it legislates today. If you doubt that, take 10 minutes to read Article I of the Constitution. Then ask yourself where Congress gets the power to do just half of what it does in modern times.
If we would just dig in our heels and insist that Congress go back to doing only what it is actually empowered to do, we could go a long way toward limiting the need for and the influence of K Street lobbyists. In other words, the surest way to reduce the grip of special interests on federal officials is to reduce the grip of federal officials on America.
Of course, the million-dollar question is "how do we insist that Congress go back to doing only what it is actually empowered to do?" Well, as you may know, I believe the only real answer to that is found in an Article V Convention for proposing amendments to definitively reduce the power, size and scope of the federal government. Learn more at www.conventionofstates.com.