Are Lobbyists Misunderstood?

March 28, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Lawrence Lessig argues that lobbying isn’t the “pay money to x” and “get outcome y” that most people think it is. Highlights include:

  • If lobbyists really worked the way we thought they did then you would expect that they would spend their time trying to ‘bribe’ those who disagree with them. But this isn’t the case. Lobbyists actually concentrate on those who already agree with them – people who are already likely to vote in their favour.
  • In fact despite extensive statistical analysis, it has been difficult to find evidence for systematic vote buying.
  • In a sophisticated, bureaucratically complicated legislative arena, lobbyists are actually professionals who are intelligent experts that understand the complexities of the situation. They don’t tell legislators what to do, rather, they help legislators achieve what they already want to achieve.
  • But this does not mean that the practice is ethical. While lobbyists aren’t buying votes they are helping to set the agenda. Only certain issues receive the guidance provided by lobbyists, causing other issues to be left by the way-side.

To read why the problem is one of human relationships, why embedded in the lobbying world is a gift economy rather than a cash economy, how Jack Abramoff fits into all of this, and why today’s lobbyists look like boy-scouts compared to the lobbyists of old, click here.

Source: The New York Review of Books

Via: The Atlantic