Lobbying - the very word suggests intrigue, if not corruption. Who among us when asked our occupation answers, ’I’m a lobbyist,’ as others might say, ’I’m a realtor’ or ’estate planner’ (formerly ’in real estate’ or ’insurance salesman’)?
Lobbying - the very word suggests intrigue, if not
corruption. Who among us when asked our occupation answers, ’I’m
a lobbyist,’ as others might say, ’I’m a realtor’ or ’estate
planner’ (formerly ’in real estate’ or ’insurance salesman’)?
In fact, it’s only lately we lobbyists have begun to make our
calling seem more appealing, referring vaguely to public affairs,
government liaison or even corporate communications. Counseling
and positioning are in vogue as alternative verbs, and a
groundswell is developing for reputation engineering.
But lobbying remains essential, if scorned (somewhat like beer),
and when all the fuss about campaign financing is over and
stricter limits are placed on the amount and use of money in
politics, lobbyists will remain. They will occupy their days with
information-gathering and presentation to the lawmakers, rallying
supporters in the district or state and, with any luck, occupying
the evenings with fewer fundraisers.
It’s hard to know, particularly in Washington where the streets
are choked with lobbyists - oh, all right, government-affairs
consultants - why the trade has acquired such a pejorative
meaning. The word itself comes from the mother of all
Parliaments, in England, where representatives of interests
subject to legislation would approach members in the lobbies off
the floor of the House of Commons. No fundraisers, no lavish
gifts, no celebrity Pro-Am golf tournaments, no seats in the
company luxury box at the cricket match - just straight
But when the trade moved across the Atlantic to the halls of
Congress, something changed. Nineteenth century cartoons set the
style - lobbyists were either fat and drunken or thin and
sinister - and the mise en scene shifted from the lobby to
’backrooms,’ a general term that includes golf courses, political
clubhouses and, of course, saloons.
There became something faintly sinister about pressing a course
of action and ultimately a vote on a legislator, even if the
cause were an entirely legitimate subject of public debate. The
lobbyists were always on the other side - the public interest had
advocates, even crusaders (when was the last time anyone called
Ralph Nader a lobbyist?), resisting the blandishments of the
Now we’re all in the business of sounding good. Committees for
Sensible Taxation, Citizens for Strength through Security,
Businessmen for Sound Science abound (if you can work in the word
’integrity,’ so much the better), but if you search around, you
will probably find an old-fashioned lobbyist, close - as the
saying goes - but no cigar.