An upcoming article by Nicholas W. Allard, a lawyer at the Washington lobbying firm Patton Boggs makes the point that increased regulation of lobbying activities and more restrictive ethics laws have actually made lobbying a more, not less, lucrative profession. Perhaps unintentionally, many of the new rules governing lobbying further remove the average citizen from accessing the ear of government. Furthermore, rather than remove money from politics, the rules ensure that more money will be spent on political fundraising and other activities.
Long gone are the days when fat cats waited in the lobby of Washington hotels for the chance to offer the President or some member of Congress a cigar and scotch. Now, lobbying is a highly specialized profession, closely related to law and medicine. Lobbyists who chose to support political candidates in their free time should not be punished just because of their professional affiliations. Certainly those affiliations deserve to be disclosed when appropriate, but they are far from disqualifying.
The intricate, sometimes essential relationship between politicians and lobbyists makes one wonder whether Senator Obama truly has a plan for reforming lobbying practices in Washington or whether he is merely using the issue to score political points against his likely rival for the office of President. To be fair, almost all of the top strategists on the staff of the major candidates either currently, or in the past, have advocated for some sort of special interests – whether as lobbyists, elected officials, attorneys, or otherwise. Furthermore, given the nature of the profession, lobbyists are well suited to run campaigns because of their familiarity with the issues and their knowledge of the political process.
Finally, let us not forget that the Constitution guarantees American citizens the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. In some sense this is a symbolic right, in that it does not confer a corresponding responsibility on behalf of the government to address the petition, grant a hearing, or even acknowledge the grievance in any formal way. There are of course other mechanisms (i.e. voting, the courts, etc.) for achieving these ends.