Is Lobbying a Necessary Evil?

Lobbying groups

What is lobbying? It is a term associated with legislation and sometimes suspected of corruption. A lobbyist firm is a group of professional advocates or lawyers who attempt to influence government affairs on behalf of a special interests group. Because these groups may be petitioning on behalf of corporate interests or lobbying for a charitable group, public relations can be tense at times.

A lobbying firm may specialize in a certain area, such as pharmaceuticals or in educational reform. For example, the Common Core Standards being implemented in classrooms across the country started off as a proposal. Lobbyists backed by a wealthy donor were able to convince professional groups, unions, and members of Congress to look at the data supporting the Common Core method. What role does a donor play in the process?

There are numerous laws regulating lobbyist firms, in which perhaps the most indispensable is transparency. It is illogical that a monetary donation be made to a cause in which the donor has no interest, however; when money is indirectly involved to sway government decisions the public gets antsy. Last year, education was not the top industry for a lobbyist firm to spend money on, but pharmaceutical interests were at $230.07 million. Business associations and insurance companies followed behind in second and third.

In total, lobbyist firms spent an estimated $3.24 billion in 2014 (in U.S. dollars). That money is judiciously used to sway key members of Congress to their cause. It may be a worthy cause, such as clean energy or improved educational opportunities, or it may be a cause that ultimately benefits a small privileged slice of the population.

While there are many regulations regarding lobbyist firms and their actions, there is still the cautious voice of doubt that wonders if it is necessarily wise to depend on information from an obviously biased source.

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