WASHINGTON: Washington lobbyists, having endured nearly as much verbal abuse this year from the Democratic candidates as President Bush, are fighting back against what they call unfair characterizations.
Earlier this month, the American League of Lobbyists (ALL) sent a letter to all the Presidential hopefuls urging them to stop demonizing government relations professionals.
"Lobbying is an essential part of the American political process protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution," the letter reads. "[It's] one of the major ways that politicians are held accountable to the people. Lobbyists represent all points of view on the major issues that confront the country and the Congress - environment, labor, the elderly, teachers, veterans, as well as businesses, to name just a few."
ALL president Deanna Gelak circulated the letter among the media, then sat for interviews and follow-up appearances on television.
Lobbyists have long been the target of election-year invective, but Gelak says the level of rhetoric this year is unprecedented.
"This is over the edge," she told PRWeek. "These comments are really exploiting outdated stereotypes and playing on some people's lack of understanding for political purposes - and we want young people to go into government relations."
The debate between the candidates over who is least beholden to special interests has spawned a spate of often vitriolic anti-lobbyist remarks. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) has said they should be "cut off at the knees, while Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) described them as pests "scurrying around Capitol Hill [who] "trip over themselves to fund the Bush-Cheney campaign."