In the United States, lobbyists work on behalf of big companies or the public. The lobbying process usually assumes two categories, the indirect and the direct kind. Direct lobbying involves “meeting a politician and providing him/her with details relating to a law or a bill that is under vote” (Nownes 14).
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Indirect lobbying can also be referred to as grassroots lobbying and it involves influencing the politicians’ votes by changing public opinion. Public members then contact their representatives and inform them about their acquired opinions on the issue under discussion.
Lobbyists usually come into contact with both legislators and their aides. During the lobbying process, lobbyists advocate for interests that might be affected by changes in legislation. The main purpose of lobbying is to employ checks and balances to the law making process.
The status of a lobbyist is not the same as that of an ordinary voter because while a voter has only one vote, a lobbyist has the power to influence politicians directly. In addition, lobbyists usually have access to a lot of money and this gives them immense influence. Lobbying activities do not depend on which party is in power. Lobbyists have the ability to work against party policies and manifestos. The independent nature of lobbying makes it a good tool of democracy.
The lobbying process is enshrined in the constitution through the First amendment. This Amendment gives the people “the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (Nownes 34). This right is enjoyed by individuals, professionals, non-profit organizations, corporations, and religious groups.
Examples of lobbying activities might include a campaign spearheaded by oil companies that are interested in convincing the Congress to amend oil-drilling rules, a campaign by software companies that seek to convince the Congress to tighten copyright laws, and a campaign by a humanitarian society that wants the government to increase the welfare budget.
On the other hand, indirect lobbying involves trying to appeal to an elected official’s electorate. Indirect lobbying might involve sending letters to voters explaining a certain issue and then asking them to contact their representatives. In addition, lobbyists might address rallies or public forums that urge citizens to sway their politicians’ opinion on a certain issue.
Nowadays, lobbying is often marred by controversy. Lobbyists are viewed by most citizens as individuals who would stop at nothing to sway politicians even if the process involves corruption. For instance, a lobbyist by the name Jack Abramoff claimed to have spent over one million dollars in one year through politicians’ incentives.
Some people are of the view that the only way to eliminate corruption from lobbying is by abolishing it entirely. However, lobbying has proved useful in some instances and it is protected by the constitution. Lobbying has at times worked against the interests of citizens.
During the Ford Pinto disaster, lobbyists made the situation worse by delaying the recall of the faulty vehicle models. This delay proved fatal because several innocent citizens lost their lives. Almost everyone can engage in lobbying because no certification is required before becoming a lobbyist.
Lobbying is important to the country’s law making process. However, the process is often misused by politicians and big corporations. The solution to this misuse lies with the politicians. Politicians are still answerable to those who elect them to office. Therefore, being swayed by unscrupulous lobbyists might cost politicians their political careers.
Nownes, Anthony. Total Lobbying: What Lobbyists Want (and how they try to get it), New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.