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at the water's edge
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence legislators. While it is necessary, right to petition and all, it can occasionally serve special interests and not what's best for the people. Lobbyists often push anti-science positions, as well as donate to politicians who hold those views. On the flip-side, it's useful for grassroots organizations or minorities who want their views represented.
Lobbying in the United States of America is a billion-dollar industry that heavily influences the Senate and House of Representatives. Many, many former congresspeople use a "revolving door" to lobby after they get booted from office. Conflict of interest? What's that?
Many of the pundits and positions which invoke climate-change denialism are influenced by lobbying efforts. Big corporations, including food companies such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola, invest in advocacy groups for lobbying. One such group is the Center for Consumer Freedom, which advocates for fast food, alcohol, and tobacco.
The largest lobbying group in America is the United States Chamber of Commerce, often spending twice or three times as much as the next biggest spenders, the National Association of Realtors and the American Medical Association.
Political action groups
- Main article: Political action group
Lobbying is mainly performed by political action committees or groups, which have offices in DC for lobbying. Your mileage will most certainly vary on the individual ones, ranging from "defending" marriage, to lobbying for animal rights, or to wishing to prohibit alcohol.
In 1995, John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, became involved in a lobbying-related scandal. In a stunning display of family values, he took checks from the tobacco lobby and distributed them to the House floor. This happened right before a vote on tobacco subsidies, but maybe it was just a gift.
In another scandal, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, as well as Ralph E. Reed, Jr., Grover Norquist, and Michael Scanlon, were representing a tribe for Indian casino interests. They overcharged their clients to kingdom come (charging nearly $85 million in fees) and secretly spread the profits among themselves and Republican congressional staffers. Additionally, they even quietly lobbied for another tribe against their own clients, forcing the first tribe to need even more lobbying done. Not-so-legal gifts and campaign contributions were allegedly exchanged between the lobbyists in return for votes. Eventually, Casino Jack and the lobbyists, Congressman Robert "Bob" Ney (who had led the charge in Congress, along with Rep. Walter Jones, to rename French fries and French toast to "freedom fries" and "freedom toast"), his chief of staff, and two Congressional aides to Tom DeLay (Tony Rudy and Scanlon) were convicted for various crimes during the scandal.
So why is lobbying even allowed at all? Well, your average politician has skills and experiences related to politics but not necessarily to every single industry they regulate[citation NOT needed], even if they think they know enough anyway. Alright, Mr Smith, you finally got elected to US Senator and are now in Washington, time to vote on the pesticide quality, control, disclosures bill that's up for a vote. Pesticides, those are scary poisons, gotta ban them right? Hold on a second, there are reasons we use them. So a farming lobbyist or a chemical production lobbyist might meet with Mr Smith to let him know how this bill would affect them. Of course, there is little safeguard that those lobbyists aren't misrepresenting the facts or just outright lying, so consumer safety lobbyists might also be lobbying to counter them. Thus, Mr Smith is able to make a relatively informed decision about pesticides.
Where this breaks down is when only one interest is able to lobby (perhaps because only they can afford to), or if one side is effectively offering bribes.