Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lobbyists Are a Scourge of Democracy

"Professional lobbyists try to influence legislation on behalf of whoever hires them. Lobbying is often spoken of with contempt, the implication being that people with inordinate socioeconomic power are corrupting the law in order to serve their own interest. However, minority interests too are defended against the "tyranny of the majority" by lobbying. At heart, the effort to influence legislation is a power struggle, with motives that range from predation to self-defense to fighting for justice. The "Revolving Door of Influence" has been described by UK Conservative leader David Cameron as "the next big scandal waiting to happen" and that lobbying had "tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money". The ability of individuals, groups, and corporations to lobby the government is protected by the right to petition in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Since 1998, 43 percent of the 198 members of Congress who left government to join the private sector have registered to lobby. In 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama signed two executive orders and three presidential memoranda on his first day in office governing how former lobbyists can be employed in the government, and restrictions on lobbying once leaving the government. Lobbying has become a political fact of life around the world, and is now endemic in local, state and federal governments everywhere. In Australia, lobbyists must not only register, but a Parliamentary Pass must be signed by two parliamentarians. It is administered by the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) and has the enforcement of the Criminal Code Act 1995."  (Wikipedia)  Unfortunately the pass is valid for 2 years, when it should be for two hours.  That way statistics could be kept about the relative frequency of various lobbying efforts and which politicians are spending the most time having their ear bent by paid interests instead of the voters who elected them.  Australia at least seems to be dealing with the cancer of paid lobbyists.