News / USA

'Lobbying' Becomes Pervasive Part of US Government Policymaking

When public policy decisions are being made in the United States,. corporations, advocacy groups, and others interact with Congress and the government's Executive Branch to influence those decisions. This activity, called "lobbying," is sometimes accused of promoting so-called special interests at the expense of the public at-large. But, lobbying is a constitutionally protected activity in the U.S., and has become a pervasive part of the decision process.    

Laws are created in the United States in a very public process.  Proposals, called "bills," are introduced in Congress, deliberated, and voted on. Then, the Executive Branch of the U.S. government carries out those laws, and the regulations that derive from them,  through its many departments and agencies.

Individuals and businesses who are affected by these laws and regulations want to influence their creation, and their enforcement.  In the United States, this effort to influence is called "lobbying." And it goes on not only in Washington, but also in all 50 U.S. state capitals.

The U.S. Constitution has provisions in it that allow lobbying to be a part of the governmental decision process. As Georgetown University public policy professor Mark Rom points out, these provisions are among the most basic constitutional principles.

"In the Constitution, we have the right to assemble. We have the right to petition the government. We have free speech, and a free press. So, when people want to change policy to influence the government, they are constitutionally protected in doing so," he said.

Because of these rights, it is common for American citizens to call, write, e-mail, and also sometimes mount demonstrations before their Members of Congress. They are telling those lawmakers they support -- or oppose -- the legislation being considered, and want them to vote accordingly.

In Washington, a great deal of the lobbying is done by third-party advocates.

"One way it [lobbying] has developed has been that companies or interest groups, such as a gun-rights group, or another interest group, hires a professional - either on their staff, or a consultant who works for a firm, to then go to Capitol Hill for them. These people are lobbyists, and they know more [than others do] about how Congress works, about the rules. They know the particular lawmakers who are important or might be sympathetic. So, lobbying today is largely about either big companies who hire a [lobbying] professional on-staff to make their case to Congress, or, companies hire full-time lobbyists who work here in Washington, who then go to Congress, or go to the Executive Branch, and make their case," explains Tim Carney, a reporter for the Washington Examiner newspaper.

Lobbying is a major industry in Washington. In 2009, estimates say close to $3.5 billion was spent to influence Congress and the Executive Branch. And, much of this is done by firms of lawyers who specialize in influencing the legislative process and regulatory enforcement. One of those firms is Patton Boggs, where partner Nicholas Allard says lawyers are essential to lobbying.

"The law that we are pursuing as lawyers is [tied to] the question 'What should the law be?' And, 'How should it be fairly implemented?' And so, that is why lawyers, fundamentally, are engaged.  And, after all, we are talking about the process of writing laws and rules [regulations] so that they work.  You know, there is always the 'Law of unintended consequences.'  If laws are not drafted correctly, or if they are not implemented in a fair way so that you have a common rule applied universally in similar situations, you have bad results and bad policy," he said.

These lobbying firms have become highly successful in shaping legislation and policies for the benefit of their clients. Ken Vogel, with the Politico newspaper in Washington, says that influence is so strong that sometimes, lawmakers essentially follow the lobbyists' lead.

"In some cases, there are lobbying groups that are so successful and have so much influence that they are able to write bills, proposed bills, for members of Congress. And, these members of Congress will introduce them [the bills] without changing a word of them," he said.

Lobbying in Washington is not limited to Americans. There are international companies and foreign governments seeking to influence U.S. legislation and regulations as well.

But lobbying is not an "anything goes" activity. There are federal laws and ethics regulations that govern the process. And those rules are enforced, though not always perfectly.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs