Lobbyists and Politicians

CNN had a video showing a dispute between Mitt Romney and a journalist. Romney claimed that his campaign was not being run by lobbyists. The journalist balked at that statement and accused Romney of lying because Romney has a person who works as a lobbyist fairly involved in his campaign as a volunteer. Romney claims the man is a friend and an adviser and is not running his campaign. Romney is known for choosing words carefully and sometimes saying something without saying anything (not lying but not always being direct). In this case the journalist seemed to be picking a fight and – even though he accused Romney of playing with semantics – was really the one playing with semantics. Romney stated that lobbyists were not running his campaign. That is true. His friend, who happens to be a lobbyist, is involved in the campaign but is not running it. The lobbyist friend makes no executive decisions about the campaign and does not have a major influence on it. The journalist persisted in accusing Romney and Romney became frustrated (CNN termed it “losing his cool”). I don’t think Romney handled the exchange as well as he could have but he certainly did not “lose his cool;” he did an admiral job considering the circumstances.

I’ve never understood people’s problems with lobbyists. Lobbyists are widely reviled as playing too large a role in politics. The problem that I see with people attacking lobbyists is that they really are not attacking all lobbyists, they’re only attacking lobbyists with whom they don’t agree. Every major and many minor industries have lobbyists. There are lobbyists for journalists, there are music industry lobbyists, there are AARP lobbyists, and there are lobbyists for doctors and psychologists. There are so many different interest groups and there are as many lobbyists as there are interests. Again, it’s often hypocritical to attack lobbyists in general while benefiting from those representing your own profession. It’s like the people who are against government spending except when it helps them; “We need to cut out politician pork but don’t you dare cut out my pork.” The problem is not lobbyists, the problem is unscrupulous politicians. Lobbyists work as advocates. Some are dishonest and try to corrupt politicians but most are just normal people (well, highly-paid normal people). We have a Democracy (or close enough). It’s the right of everyone to have a say – that includes special interest groups and lobbyists. Some may argue that lobbyists have more of a say than normal people but that’s not true. They have more time and more money than most people so they can spend more time with politicians. However, there are more “normal” people than there are lobbyists. The people can always out-vote the lobbyists.

I have nothing against lobbyists. They serve an important role in our government. They bring the will of the people (in small groups or large) to the politicians. It is the politicians’ responsibilities to be wise in listening to lobbyists. This doesn’t mean that I am against lobbying reform but I have more of a problem with corrupt politicians than lobbyists who help corrupt them. I also cannot be unilaterally opposed to lobbyists because there are lobbyists who are fighting for my chosen profession and for so many other things that positively benefit my life and the lives of so many other Americans.

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