Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lobbyists – Everybody's Political Punching Bags

There is more than one word that's used in politics and the media coverage of politics that's used just for pure demonization. Political buzz words, if you will. Politicians look at polls and see who the public doesn't like, then they patronize the public by expressing their antipathy toward that group. The news media does it too. Slip and Fall Lawyers, Used Car Dealers, CEOs, Bankers, Fund Managers, Lobbyists, and Special Interests are all persona non grata at the politician's public dinner parties. If I hear Barack Obama or another liberal Democrat say "lobbyist" or "special interest" again I think I will jump into one of the six foot snow drifts outside my window! 

Let’s narrow our focus for the moment on lobbyists. The definition of “lobbyist” according to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Tenth edition dictionary is: To promote or secure the passage of legislation by influencing public officials.

Like it or not, lobbyists are part of the political landscape in America. These people don't go to Washington DC, or your state capital to lobby in the interest of lobbyists or for their own personal interests, they go representing the interests of sometimes huge swaths of the population of the United States.

For instance AARP lobbies Washington and represents some 40 million older Americans. The National Rifle Association (NRA) represents 4 million gun owners, and Labor Unions lobby in Washington DC and the state capitals for their workers. AAA has lobbyists, as do manufacturers, mining consortiums,  restaurant associations, handicapped people, and even illegal aliens have lobbyists! The list is actually endless of government lobbyists in this country, and it is not just Banks, Wall Street, Pharmaceutical companies, Big Oil, and Health Insurance, as some politicians and reporters would have you believe. There is a lobbyist for almost every type of American trying to get something from the government or prevent something being done by the government.

Everyone is (or can be) represented, maybe not equally, but lobbying is democratic and there is nothing keeping one lobby from being as powerful as another.

So when President Obama rails against lobbyists, he disparagingly uses the term lobbyist as a scapegoat, or a euphemism for whole populations of people in this country whom he does not want to name by name because it would hurt him politically. Some lobbyists may deserve to be painted with the broad brush he and other politicians paint them with, but most are in their state capitals and Washington DC to represent the legitimate issues of the groups who sent them there.

There are always going to be people who go to Washington DC, or Lansing, or Trenton, or Tallahassee and try to get senators, representatives, governors and presidents to hear their side of the story. Demonizing constituencies and those working on their behalf is disingenuous, cheap, political pandering.

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