News / USA

Lobbying Pervades Washington, Has International Interest

Much like a political campaign, lobbying involves the crafting and delivery of so-called 'messages' directed at lawmakers and regulators, in hopes of influencing their decisions.
Much like a political campaign, lobbying involves the crafting and delivery of so-called 'messages' directed at lawmakers and regulators, in hopes of influencing their decisions.

Multimedia

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.

In Washington, the word "lobbying" means an effort to influence legislation or government policy. This is done through contact with Congress and with the Executive Branch's departments and agencies. Lobbying is a huge business, with nearly 3-and-a-half billion dollars spent on it in 2009.

Laws and regulations can be so complex that it takes legions of lawyers to navigate through them and craft strategies for changing their provisions.

Law firms engaged in lobbying perform those services on behalf of their clients.  One of the most prominent lobbying firms in Washington is Patton Boggs, where partner Nicholas Allard says he and his colleagues offer essential skills, much like a dentist.

"I would not -- and you would not -- try to do a root canal on ourselves.  And, that you turn to an expert [a dentist].  And so, put in those terms, the reason why people have expert advocates -- or lobbyists -- is that you need expertise," Allard states. "And, what we are providing to our clients - whether they are big corporations or individuals, whether they are paying top dollar for the expertise on a business issue, whether it is pro bono [without charge] --- and we do a lot of that -- is expertise.  We are providing analysis, advice, and also, expert advocacy.

Part of that expert advocacy Allard refers to is the ability to reach key people who decide on laws and policies.  At the Washington Examiner newspaper, reporter Tim Carney explains why familiarity is so important to achieving success for clients.

"Most of the time, a lobbyist might be somebody who used to work for a particular Congressman," Carney says, "and so, he can get a meeting with that particular Congressman, because the Congressman knows 'He [the lobbyist] is not going to waste my time.' Or, 'He is well informed, or he is well educated.' And so, it is in your interest as a company to hire that former [Congressional] staff member of the Congressman. So, it is access -- that is what it is really about."

Much like a political campaign, lobbying involves the crafting and delivery of so-called "messages" directed at lawmakers and regulators, in hopes of influencing their decisions.   And, these messages constantly bombard Washington through a variety of media, as Ken Vogel at the Politico newspaper points out.

"The way that these folks [lawmakers and regulators] are targeted takes many forms, including not just traditional lobbying, where what you have is people going and meeting in an office or a conference room somewhere. But also, advertisments in newspapers, advertisments on the subway, advertisments on television during football games on Sunday," Vogel said.  "All of these ads, all of this lobbying, even though it does not fit into the traditional idea of what we think of as lobbying, is intended to do the same thing. And, that is, to influence the policy outcomes, the regulatory outcomes, the contracting outcomes, that take place on the decisions that are made here in Washington."

One example of a multi-media lobbying bombardment is the fight between two aircraft makers, Boeing and a European company, Airbus, to win a lucrative Air Force contract for new tanker planes.  Along with using conventional lobbyists, both companies have put out their messages through TV and newspaper ads and other media.  The fight between Boeing and Airbus also highlights the growing effort of foreign corporations and even nations to use lobbyists to influence Washington decisions.

Patton Boggs lobbyist Nicholas Allard reflects on how international problems spur international involvement.   "Perhaps the biggest [recent] change in lobbying is that it is increasingly international, and multi-national.  On most big policy issues - [such as] climate change, financial services regulation - there is widespread, almost universal, understanding around the world that you cannot act unilaterally," he said.

So as long as there are interests to protect, profits to be made, and rights to be asserted, there will be people attempting to influence legislation and regulations.  Sometimes fairly, sometimes not.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs