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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs