General Question

janbb's avatar

Should lobbying be banned outright?

Asked by janbb (43546 points ) March 27th, 2014

Sparked by answer to a question on the bottled water question. It seems like many of the ills in the USA – certainly not all – are caused by powerful interests having a stranglehold on Congress. I’m wondering, and it really is just wondering, if a ban on all lobbying would be possible and effective. Your thoughts?

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31 Answers

Jaxk's avatar

If you have a business and congress plans to create legislation that would affect that business negatively, would you want a chance to explain the problems you see? Keep in mind that as a business owner in that industry, you likely have more knowledge about what will happen than the legislators do. How would anyone justify legislation that denies you the right to speak to your congress person?

I believe it would be unconstitutional.

bolwerk's avatar

I’m reluctantly with @Jaxk. It’s not like merchants shouldn’t have a voice too.

A better approach would be publicly financed campaigns that outsiders can’t buy. When lobbyists actually get something untoward, the electorate would be better able to elect someone who is hostile to that lobbyist.

Of course, proportional representation would probably also be needed for that to work.

jerv's avatar

Lobbying itself isn’t the issue, nor are special interests. Lobbying works both ways, and there are special interest groups on both (or all) sides of every issue.

Corporations may hire the most lobbyists, but they aren’t the only ones doing it. Would you really want to prevent civil rights groups from lobbying? Or how about those opposing the ones you seek to strip of lobbying power; are they not allowed to have their voices heard by Congress?

janbb's avatar

@jerv That occurred to me but it would have to be from all groups except individuals if it were going to be done.

Couldn’t a merchant have a voice as an individual owner rather than having the money to put in a whole organization to skew towards his interests?

Again, just speculating – ain’t never gonna happen.

GloPro's avatar

Lobbying is necessary. Earmarks are not.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Not possible, because you would essentially be outlawing conversations.

jerv's avatar

@janbb Congresscriters have staffs to go through all of the correspondence from individuals trying to get their ear. They have form letters for responses.

Individuals already have a voice, but that voice would be drowned out by millions of others if the Congresscritter listened to them all. In fact, that “too many voices” problem is why Congress even exists instead of having a direct democracy.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

Lobbying does not need to be banned, just reformed, along with the campaign finance system currently in effect.Lobbying occurs at every level of government, from the “K” street crowd down to the local town meeting. I want the same right to attend my city council meeting as the oil company that wants to frack to get to the shale under my home. I want my special interest to be heard just as loudly by my legislators or other officials as those with opposing viewpoints. Lobbying is an essential part of this government.

@GloPro Earmarks are also necessary. Earmarks are used to determine where funding is allocated. If it were not for earmarks, half the infrastructure that was built in the fifties and sixties (roads, bridges, and rails we ride on every day) would never be completed. I could go into more detail, but I don’t want to derail this thread.

Pandora's avatar

Lobbying isn’t the problem. It is the bribes and backroom deals that need to become illegal. I agree with @jerv, that you wouldn’t want to stop civil right lobbying. It’s the corporations that are the worst. For now, what they can do is make it illegal for any lobbying from taking place in private. No phone calls to senators or congressmen or their aids, no private meetings. All meetings must be in a public forum with an outline of their agenda, and absolutely no money must be given to candidates or party from anyone who is lobbying for a special group. This way they can only choose to go in their favor by the merits of their cause. Not the green in their pockets.

GloPro's avatar

@Yetanotheruser There has to be a better way than to piggyback onto bills. And no, earmarks aren’t always necessary. Let the lobbyists pay for the fluff stuff!

JLeslie's avatar

I have mixed feelings. If it is all or none, I am on the side of getting rid of lobbying. A business can still have a spokesperson or representative to speak on behalf of the industry to educate our political representatives, but paying lobbyists just gets out of hand, and backdoor and good ol’ boy deals are out of control. Plus, the industries have a lobby, but the average consumer doesn’t. The fight is not even.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@GloPro Let lobbyists pay for the fluff stuff Would you want your local contractor to have to pay for the federally appropriated highway construction? Lets continue thie conversation on earmarks here.

ibstubro's avatar

Within the past 48 hours there was a piece on NPR about lobbying currently being down because of the poor economy that might interest you, @janbb. Sorry, I can’t find it as it must have been a portion of a news piece. Maybe someone that uses the NPR site more fluently can link it?

Jaxk's avatar

@JLeslie

Actually that’s not true. There are consumer advocates (lobbyists) everywhere in Washington. On virtually any subject, there are lobbyists on both sides of the issue. Here is a list of just the top lobbyists in Washington, not even all of them. I think you can find an advocate for both sides of every issue.

Besides, getting rid of lobbyists would make the unemployment rate rise

JLeslie's avatar

@jaxk Are you counting grass roots lobbyists as the lobbyists for the average consumer?

The unemployment line never matters to me when it comes to arguments like this. Are you ok with keeping the government large to keep people employed?

janbb's avatar

(Cruiser is either writing a novel or has left the building…..)

pleiades's avatar

Politics without lobbying in a capitalistic society just doesn’t make sense.

Jaxk's avatar

@JLeslie

Actually the unemployment was tongue-in-cheek. Environmentalists, grass roots, tax reform, health care, unions all have lobbyists.

Cruiser's avatar

@janbb Sorry I am actually having to work today and got sidetracked

IMO it’s not the lobbyists that are the problem here it is the average US CItizen who does not take the time to educate themselves on the issues of today and are easily swayed by these massive media blitz campaigns that are paid for by PACS, unions and big corporate donors. And then these same people base their votes merely on info they get from sound bite attack ads, so we often wind up with a lesser qualified candidate in office.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jaxk I don’t even relate those to the individual, but I understand your point. Like, one thing that jumps to my mind is how in some states I can access my medical lab tests and in other states I can’t. I happen to live in a state I can’t I am dependent on the doctor to give them to me. Obviously, the AMA must love laws that prevent patients from accessing information. Who is speaking for the little guy? No one I know of, maybe someone is, but who would be paying them? The lab companies do have lobbyists thought trying to change those laws here in FL. Luckily, the financial motivation of the lab company will benefit me if they get their way.

Judi's avatar

The ability of groups of people to band together to make their voices heard should not be banned.
How that is done and the influence of money SHOULD be regulated.
The 100 people lobbying on behalf of the poor should have the same access as the 100 people lobbying for the oil industry. (Or real estate industry or wildlife preservation or whatever the cause. )

rojo's avatar

But they don’t. And won’t until the bribery, payoffs, favors, fact finding trips and promises of future employment that well funded corporate lobbyist are able to come up with are eliminated.

it is not the access, it is the idea that ” the ability to give money, large sums of it, is free speech” (you remember that one, the one that corporate lobbyists bought and paid for) that is the root of the problem.

rojo's avatar

Let us begin by setting term limits so no one has to worry about coming up with campaign funds every few years and using their entire time in office as one big fundraising event. Let us dispense with notion that voting is a form of term limits, the unfair advantages of the incumbent are well known and well verified. Let us provide, and allow, only campaign financing from a general pool of government provided funds set aside for that express purpose. Let us break the shackles of the two party system and allow other independent parties fair access to the offices of government.
Let us deny all sources of money to our government officials except the salary that we the people provide them.

bolwerk's avatar

Term limits take away the people’s right to select who represents them. They indiscriminately throw out the good and the bad, and ultimately solve nothing in the process.

Judi's avatar

Term limits are crazy to me. Legislating is a profession. I wouldn’t fire my doctor after a few years when he just starts figuring out what he’s doing. (Unless he’s doing a bad job) Why would I fire my legislator when he’s just figuring out what he’s doing?

augustlan's avatar

My knee-jerk reaction was “Yes, ban all lobbying.” But I don’t want anyone’s voice taken away from them. Could we hold hearings on any new legislation, and select experts from the field as well as regular old people who’d be affected by it to testify? All input in a public forum? Is that doable?

I do think making all campaigns publicly financed would be a huge help.

rojo's avatar

Let us make a vote a $1.00 a vote and let someone vote as many times as they want to fork over the cash.

Judi's avatar

Then we WOULD have an oligarchy @rojo!
The beauty of a democracy is that every citizen gets an equal vote regardless of their social standing or their net worth.

rojo's avatar

@Judi that is the way it is now, I am just saying that we should legalize it and make a capitalist buck off of it. A less hypocritical way of doing business.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@rono Let us make a vote a $1.00 a vote and let someone vote as many times as they want to fork over the cash.

I think this would be the same net result. The problem is not the lobbying itself, but lobbying after this type of campaign contributions.

rojo's avatar

@Yetanotheruser while the results may be the same, we, the people, do not get the benefit of all the money pumped into the system.

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