Insight 8: Government Relations Lingo

(Image courtesy of occupyaustin.org)

     A lobbyist: similar to a republican or a democrat, but aren’t represented on the ballot. A lobbyist is an activist with a goal to persuade members of the government (as opposed to citizens)- Congress, for example- to represent legislation that benefits their group’s views. It is a legitimate profession; some people get paid to be a lobbyist, while others volunteer. There are so many misconceptions about what a lobbyist is and who they are by the public. One example is that all lobbyists get paid. Another, that they stuff the governments pockets to get what they want.

     They like to use the term gifts instead of bribes. A lot of the public feel that the only way a lobbyist gets what they want is by bribing the government official. Their bribe could be anything from gratuity, entertainment, loans, hospitality, discounts, favors, to other items having monetary value (Cooper). However, it is illegal for anyone involved in the government to accept these so called “gifts” from a lobbyist.Most of these misconceptions come from people gossiping by “word of mouth”. It’s the same as when you hear conjured rumors about a republican or democrat, or even the C.I.A. It’s someones already misconstrued opinion that someone else took as a fact.

     Another HUGE misconception is that lobbyists only represent the wants of large corporations- as if they didn’t already have such a bad rep. In the words of The Grinch, “Wrong-o”. This is so wrong, it makes me laugh. Pennsylvania State University student Michael Mancini wrote a very enlightening blog post on the most common misconceptions the public makes about lobbyists. Lobbyists represent a wide range of groups and organizations: small businesses, entrepreneurs, teachers, elderly, hospitals, disabled people, and even children (Mancini). According to the Commission on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, “Virtually everyone in our democracy whether they are aware of it or not has a lobbyist working on their behalf…” (Mancini). This is making lobbyists sound worse and worse, but it can actually be a good thing.

     Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has their own group of lobbyists that persuade for the better. The root of persuasion is usually something the sender of the message wants the receiver to do. But is it really bad that mothers are helping to prevent people from driving drunk on the roads? Absolutely not. Lobbyists from MADD can directly contact our representatives with issues that are important and serve the purpose of increasing all citizens driving safety. When people know details such as this, they feel empowered.

     So why don’t people know the good of what lobbyists can do? Well, most people jump on society’s bandwagon and start pointing the finger before actually checking the facts. I, myself have to admit that up until recently I scorned them as a negative group of people. Whenever I heard the term, I would instantly envision angry people rallying together in front of buildings protesting inappropriately- don’t be fooled, those kind are out there. However, a lobbyist is only as good as his/her reputation; if any bit of the truth isn’t revealed or told upfront, there’s another one waiting for them to fall, swoop in, and save the day. Citizens that don’t quite know what a lobbyist is change that.

     Always check the facts. Whether you’re reading a news article, listening to your favorite radio host, or watching something on YouTube, don’t just assume it’s correct. Everything comes from somewhere, and that information came from someone’s opinion other than your own. Do your research and form your own view point. If you do research the pros and cons of a lobbyist, it’s safe to say more good has come from them. For example, The National American Woman Suffrage Association used lobbying to gain women’s suffrage back in 1920. In addition, Martin Luther King was a lobbyist and his efforts have benefited the passage of important Civil Rights.

“Lobbying is a constitutionally protected activity that plays an important role in the governmental process. It is precisely because of the importance of lobbying in the conduct of the public’s business that it should be more open to the public’s scrutiny.” -President Jimmy Carter (Quote courtesy of intellectualtakeout.org)

Video displayed is credited to YouTube and Arnold Public Affairs.

Mancini, Michael. “Lobbying: The Misconceptions.” WordPress. Pennsylvania State University, 06 Feb 2013. Web. 5 Jun. 2013. <http://sites.psu.edu/mmancini/2013/02/06/lobbying-the-misconceptions/&gt;.

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One thought on “Insight 8: Government Relations Lingo

  1. Good points. I have always viewed lobbyists in a negative connotation because I saw them as people who just bribe the government. I guess I just have a cynical mind, and assumed that lobbyists bent the rules and bribed the government.

    T think the misconception that lobbyists only represent big corporations is a huge one. Like you said, many lobbyists represent a cause that they feel very strongly towards. For example, I read about a lobbyist who was pushing for stricter laws in food processing plants because her son died from food poisoning.. I think her example is an example of a lobbyist who has good intentions.

    Although I agree with most of the things you said, I do think that some lobbyists can have bad intentions at times.

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