How Does Lobbying Work Anyway?

I know this is probably a basic question, but it's one I've had trouble with for some time. How do lobbyists work? From what I understand of it, they just call up the congressmen and tell them to vote a particular way. Why should the congressperson listen to them over the opposite call from a constituent? Is it just through campaign money? That seems a little simplistic, and isn't it illegal for them to donate to campaigns or something? I understand how bigger groups like an influential union or the Chamber of Commerce or the Christian Coalition might be able to get their will enacted, because they have a more or less direct line to voters. But how does the banana lobby exert its influence? Or the movie studios? Or the insurance industry?

I feel dumb for having to ask, but I have a saying: " You can't cure your ignorance if you're unwilling to expose it."

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7 Comments

nice saying
It's through trips, expensive dinners, "exciting experiences" like NASCAR training camp etc.  Basically it's schmoozing, if you schmooze better than Brand X, your brand wins.
by goplies 2005-07-15 04:47PM | 0 recs
Re: nice saying
Isn't the big deal with all this Abramoff scandal that that sort of thing is illegal? If so, how does legal lobbying work?
by Gpack3 2005-07-15 05:35PM | 0 recs
I
had posted a totally ignored (:)) diary here:
http://www.mydd.com/story/2005/6/30/17110/0385
and am posting its breif content below. It may help us get started on getting to know the lobbying process and activity.

Just a few quick thoughts based on my limited understanding: the legal side of lobbying has to do with campaign contributions, and the schmoozing part is where the contributors get their message across or gain an understanding of the inside political machinations. The lobbying folks probably try to maximize their "bang for the buck" also via schmoozing.

As we know in the cReepublican Supremo Tom Delay's case, excessive schmoozing does draw attention, criticism, "hand slapping" by fellow legislators, and could even fall into the illegality domain.

My rough estimate is that a contribution of X number of G's in campaign contributions could yield anywhere from 100X to 1000X windfall in return. So it is extremely lucrative especially for the middlemen, as they could probably ask for a nice chunk of the spoils. Think about it: Rep. Crook, the politician is, in effect, taking Mr. and Mrs. Mainstreet's money and shoving it into the pockets of Mr. Busybee, the corporate entity, who probaly would still survive without that icing on the cake, and hence would not mind giving a large piece the gains to the middleman.

I don't consider all lobyying to be "bad". It can be one way of forming coalitions of groups of people that may otherwise not get heard. Such a "cooperative game theoretic" scenario is quite natural too.

But in the current rampantly proliferating scenario, I think that it is turning into severe plague on our democracy.

And hence I call them the Leeches of K-street.

Just what is this K-street leech species? See:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/21/AR2005062101632.html

See leeches in action!

http://www.thehill.com/thehill/opencms/TheHill/Business/index.html

ciao

Neo

by NeoLiberal 2005-07-15 06:32PM | 0 recs
It's not all bad
Lobbyists can play a useful role.  Elected officials, their staff, and even committee staff can't possibly know the impact of every choice that they make.  Lobbyists can be the connection between the affected parties and people making the decisions.  

People affected often have a greater understanding than others on the outside.  So, it isn't always bad.  On the other hand, one needs to understand that they are pitchmen and are being paid to present one side to an issue, and to do it well.  

Many lobbyists and firms are selective about the kinds of issues they'll represent.  Others will take on anyone who will pay them.  

What makes one side win vs. another--say the small dairy producers vs. the large dairy producers in some arcane legislation about something?  I don't know.  Some lobbyists are trusted and  have good relationships with members which helps them.  

Lobbying isn't always shady.  Some are genuinely committed to their issues.  And legislators aren't always following by the deep pockets.

The negative impact of the undue influence of lobbyists may be greater at the state level than at the national level.  At the state level it is less likely that there will be interest groups that exist to be the people's voices.  Regular folks are clearly outmatched at the state level.  

Does that help?

Come on, there have to be hill staff who read this blog.  Surely they could pitch in on this.

by Steve Hill 2005-07-15 07:37PM | 0 recs
Good lobbying,
by which I mean benevolent, is not always successful.  But there is good lobbying out there.  For example, the American Medical Student Association sent hundreds of medical students to congressional offices last spring in an effort to get support for a bill to repeal part of the medicare reform act.  The intent of the bill was to repeal the law that forbids the government from negotiating lower drug prices for people on medicare and medicaid.

Basically, the students met with the congressmen and women (or more often than not, their health issues advisor) and simply explained the bill, how it came to be written and why they supported it.  In many cases, the congressmen weren't even aware of the bill.  Just by informing them of its presence (and why medical students support it), new co-sponsors were found.  For the ones that weren't receptive to the bill, their concerns were noted and plans were made to send them more information to answer those concerns.

In the end, much was accomplished by simply making appointments to meet at offices and explain their position.  That's not how most lobbying gets done nowadays, but it's the least shady way I've heard of.

by krugg234 2005-07-15 08:16PM | 0 recs
Re: How Does Lobbying Work Anyway?

I agree with everything you say, especially the last sentence about ignorance. Being totally egocentric at the moment, I just wanted you to know that thanks to you I found the accursed typo re expenditures in Iraq and think I eliminated it. I exposed my ignorance but you cured it.

by mar2522 2006-06-20 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: How Does Lobbying Work Anyway?

I agree with everything you say, especially the last sentence about ignorance. Being totally egocentric at the moment, I just wanted you to know that thanks to you I found the accursed typo re expenditures in Iraq and think I eliminated it. I exposed my ignorance but you cured it.

by mar2522 2006-06-20 08:37AM | 0 recs

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