Barack Obama has long said that his campaign will not accept contributions from lobbyists, and now that he is the presumptive nominee, the Democratic National Committee won't accept them, either.
John McCain says that his campaign won't employ lobbyists, and volunteers are now queried about possible lobbying activity in the past. It's only a matter of time until someone calls for a law requiring every lobbyist to paint a big, red "L" on his forehead.
Behind this stigmatization of lobbyists is the notion that the failure to produce legislation in the public interest stems from the existence of lobbyists. Which is obviously nonsense. We couldn't abolish lobbying without repealing the First Amendment, which gives all of us, even those who are paid to do it, the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances." And the government could not sensibly do business without lobbyists -- as Hillary Clinton recognized at the YearlyKos convention last August.
While Obama and John Edwards were lambasting lobbyists, Clinton said: "You know, a lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans. They actually do. They represent nurses. They represent, you know, social workers. They represent ... yes, they represent corporations. They employ a lot of people."
Lobbying is as American as apple pie, going back to colonial times. The Rev. Increase Mather lobbied in London for a new charter for Massachusetts. Benjamin Franklin was the colonial agent -- lobbyist -- for Pennsylvania and other colonies. When the federal government was created, lobbyists for varied interests naturally swarmed to the capital -- first New York, then Philadelphia and Washington.
It is a simple fact of life that when Congress writes laws and the executive branch writes regulations that channel vast flows of money -- and laws and regulations that have vast moral implications -- citizens affected by those words are going to try to make sure they're written the way they want. They're going to hire the best people they can find to do so. They want lobbyists with connections -- and with expertise. They can help lawmakers understand how the words they write will affect "real Americans."
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