What Lobbyists Do: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The biggest issue with lobbying is the general lack of understanding within society and widespread misunderstandings regarding its definition. One of the biggest misconceptions is that its twin sister is bribery. But the truth is it can ignite great initiatives for US citizens when explained and applied correctly.

Lobbying is defined as a citizen’s right to speak freely to affect decisions and petition the government. Although it might sound crystal clear, it gets messier when you realize that each state’s definition of lobbying slightly differs. They may seem like marginal variations, but the devil is in the details. To reduce the room for interpretation and fully dispose of any grey area, we must unify our understanding of lobbying.

Actions to influence legislative activities are a slippery slope, especially as the motives behind big companies are often questionable. We don’t have to look far to find examples of company tax avoidance through lobbying. It’s all about balancing priorities; genuine engagement in socially important matters versus a profit interest.

That being said, let’s get stuck in the good, the bad, and the ugly of a lobbyist’s role on the political stage.

The Good

Lobbying is an upstanding example of steering large companies towards investing their resources to create social value. While it’s the nonprofit organizations known as pioneers and advocates for social good, corporations should seize the opportunity to collaborate with them to lobby for important social issues.

They can use their carefully created and cultivated connections to widen the lobbying leeway for the greater good. But what does this cryptic “greater good” expression mean when applied to real-world issues?

The distribution of corporations’ finances can contribute to passing bills. For example, 1279 organizations registered their interest to lobby regarding infrastructure investments and, for COVID-related actions, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was backed by 1500 different companies.

Moreover, plenty of companies, such as General Motors or FedEx Corp, have contributed to the “Build Back Better Act” bill that is supposed to rebuild the country’s backbone – the middle class. This is possible through funding up to six semesters of free community college, free child care for children under the age of six, and free universal preschool, among other initiatives.

The Bad

For-profit lobbying is widely carried out by the most significant market players, especially among Big Tech companies. When serious money is involved, the line between what’s right and wrong gets easily blurred.

For example, in recent weeks, Facebook suffered intense scrutiny from Congress and public judgment after a leak of internal documents revealed sensitive data regarding social media’s harmful influence on mental health among teenagers and the cultivation of political extremism.

Nonetheless, it didn’t stop them from flexing their political power. More interestingly, it coincided in time with the company’s second-biggest ever lobbying contribution of $5.1 million to bills relating to the Internet industry, according to 3rd Quarter Lobbying Disclosures.

The Ugly

How are US citizens supposed to trust politicians to uphold the ideal state of lobbying if they don’t even trust them in the first place? As it turns out, citizens rate members of Congress as the least honest and ethical professionals among all ranked professions.

Moreover, almost half of those surveyed said they have very little confidence in Congress actions. The same research shows that 38% of citizens don’t trust big businesses either. So, why would anyone believe that their collaborations through lobbying will bring positive societal change?

To clear up any misunderstandings, building citizen political awareness is vital. The responsibility to ensure good-quality governance lies with us and our decisions. By developing widespread, genuine care about the country’s political situation, we will ensure a stable future and inspire younger generations to do better than us.

Stay informed, encourage awareness, and be brave enough to care. If you want to know more about taking your first steps in the political rat race, check out our previous blogs!