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Corruption and Politics


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Corruption and Politics
When Jack Abramoff was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to prison in 2006, the act of lobbying was thrown into the national spotlight. Lobbying has a reputation for being one of the most controversial issues in American politics. It is undeniable to accept the fact that good and bad results when lobbying takes place. Some argue that the downfall of lobbying is a catastrophic problem to the American public while others argue that lobbying creates a healthy relationship between the American public, companies, and the government that complies with the US constitution. In order to determine what action should be taken regarding the act of lobbying, one should question if the act should be outlawed entirely, remain in its current legal state, or reformed.
The primary role of a lobbyist is to meet with lawmakers and their staffers on a regular basis. During these meetings valuable information is shared regarding specific issues. Many lawmakers heavily rely on lobbyists to provide vital information when writing legislation. John Kenneth White, a political scientist at Catholic University in Washington expresses how essential the act of lobbying is for politicians while in the process of writing legislation when he says: “They are not only necessary but inevitable” and “The founding fathers fully expected interest groups to organize to defend their property interest.” Professional lobbyists are people whose business consists of influencing legislation on behalf of a group or individual whom hires them. A major part of influencing legislation is providing politicians with valuable information regarding the issue. The act of lobbying has been present in American politics since the eighteen hundreds. Lobbyists believe their profession is morally ethical and benefits America as a whole (Katel).
The act of lobbying has a long legal history in American politics. As early as 1876 the House of Representatives required lobbyists to register and in 1946 lobbyist were required with both the House and Senate. The 1970’s was the beginning of an era where reform-minded lobbying groups blossomed in the wake of political and social protest movements. As a result, Congress signed the Ethics in Government Act, requiring former executive branch officials to wait a year before lobbying former colleagues. In May of 2005 Democratic Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and Martin Meehan of Massachusetts introduced a bill to prevent lobbyists from traveling on trips funded by lawmakers and special interest groups. Even though legal action has been taken in the past to defeat the problem of lobbying, it is still a large problem in American politics (Katel).
It is fairly easy for one to become a lobbyist. The first step of doing so is to establish which field or fields of lobbying appeals most to oneself. Most lobbyists have backgrounds in education, politics, and a field of interest, which they intend to lobby behalf on. Most lobbyists begin working on as small of a scale as possible and work their way up the ladder in a progressive fashion. The act of lobbying can be found in every level of American politics. Instead of intending on being asked to represent a company, most lobbyists actively ask businesses if their services are needed. If asked to lobby before congress on a federal level with a salary that is equivalent or exceeds $6,000, one must register their lobbying intentions via the lobbying disclosure office in order to become a legally practicing lobbyist (Casino).
Lobbyists have a phenomenal amount of power in politics that creates a lob-sided influence of power. University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence R. Jacobs claims: “The evidence increasingly shows that if you’re wealthy or well organized, you get listened to. And if not, you get ignored” (Katel). A primary reason why this is true is because a vote on legislation is often rewarded to the lobbyist that is willing to pay the largest sum of money. The greater a lobbyist has access to resources, the greater influence and power a lobbyist is able to obtain (Katel). An example of this would be from April 2, 2013 when Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the government up until September 2013. Lodged deep in this particular bill was a law that forces the Department of Agriculture to refrain from penalizing or challenging companies that genetically modify food (Monsanto). This bill protects companies that genetically modify food from being penalized for illicit acts, but at the same time the American public is left to deal with a genetically modified food market that is being loosely monitored. This incident wouldn’t be possible if lobbyists didn’t contribute to the requests of major food companies. Another example if this would be on April 17, 2013, when President Obama publicly claimed that the gun lobby and its allies “willfully lied” in order to help prevent a bill from being passed that had a staggering 90% support by the American people. The purpose of this bill was to enforce background checks for convicted felons and people with severe mental illnesses, preventing them from purchasing a firearm (Obama). As a result of this situation, the support of 90% of Americans was substituted by the support of a minority due to a pro-gun act of lobbying. Clearly, the lob-sided rule of power that lobbyists hold resulting from big money in politics is hindering the foundation of democracy (Katel).
One argument lobbyist’s make is the idea that they give politicians valuable information on various topics and issues. It is true that lobbyists inform politicians on various issues and situations, but it is done in a fashion where companies and congressmen are the primary beneficiaries rather than the common citizen. This is true simply because it is ludicrous to think that a company would use its free will to hire lobbyists to inform politicians when there is no financial incentive. Former Senator for the state of Illinois and current President of the United States Barrack Obama supports this theory when he says “The American people are tired of a Washington that’s only open to those with the most cash and right connections.” (Does)
Secondly, those who support lobbying claim their profession is simply a practice of free speech. Lobbyists believe this because the right to petition government is granted under the first amendment (Katel). It is humorous to think that some lobbyist would affiliate corruption with free speech. It is true that lobbyists have the right to free speech, but offering politicians large sums of money in return for a vote that is not in favor of the American public cannot be considered lawful under the Constitution. When being inaugurated into Congress politicians swear to serve the American public, which is impossible to do when one values personal greed over the well being of the American public.
Jack Abramoff, famously known as the most notorious lobbyist to ever operate in Washington DC, has brought more national attention to the horrors of lobbing than anyone else. At the height of his profession, Abramoff controlled 100 out of 335 political offices in Congress. One day Abramoff crossed lobbying lines and was convicted of illegally bribing Native-American casino owners and was sentenced to six years in federal prison. After being released from prison, Abramoff has since had an epiphany and realized why lobbying is so detrimental for the well being of the American public. He has since become one of the most popular activists in favor of criminalizing the act of lobbying. Showing acknowledgement of the mistakes he made in the past, Abramoff has guest appeared on multiple talk shows, wrote an autobiography, and stared in two documentaries relating to corruption on Capital Hill caused by lobbying (Does). Considering how the former most notorious lobbyist has completely reversed his mindset and has become the most famous anti-lobbying activist, one can infer that the act of lobbying cannot remain in its current legal state and must be changed.
Despite having a strong support for doing so, it is illogical to completely outlaw the act of lobbying. Many well-respected establishments such as The Boy Scouts of America and multiple religious advocacy groups hire lobbyist and are greatly appreciative of their services. Certain groups, regardless of their intentions, depend on lobbyists to act as a liaison between themselves and the government. This process of closing the gap between the public, companies, and the government is near impossible without the act of lobbying as an option (Davis). In addition, many stockholders have greatly benefited from the act of lobbying. This is true because lobbyists intend to increase the profits of companies, thus increasing the value of stocks that are issued by these companies (Mullins). It is sensible to think that certain lobbyists put the interests of themselves and their employers before the American public, but at the same it isn’t fair to punish every ethically practicing lobbyist for the wrongdoings done by others.
In response to the notable amount of attention resulting from the Abramoff case, former Senator for the state of Illinois and current U.S. President Barrack Obama delivered a speech on January 26, 2006 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Obama successfully convinces the majority of people listening to his speech to react in a way that provokes not only anger towards the ideology of democratically elected American politicians attending to the interests of big companies before the common American but also a sense of hope to change the current situation for a greater good. Former senator Obama calls on republicans and democrats to come together to conquer the problem that is corruption in politics caused by lobbying (Congressional).
With the strong power that lobbyists hold in politics comes the unlikelihood of visualizing congress reforming the act of lobbying in the foreseeable future. In 2006 democrats threw a fundraiser in celebration of liberals coming to power after 12 years of a majority republican rule in congress. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivers a speech at a fundraiser claiming how she plans on cracking down on corruption caused by lobbyists. It is hard to acknowledge Pelosi’s intentions when lobbyists were ironically invited to this same fundraiser. With that being said, Pelosi does go on to announce that democrats managed to get the house to decline gifts from lobbyists (Massimo). Pelosi’s speech at this celebratory fundraiser is a step forward in the direction of reformation, but there is still much that needs to be done to fix the problem.
Considering the fact that is it illogical to entirely outlaw the act of lobbying or leave it in its current legal state, the act of lobbying should be reformed to protect the American public from political corruption. Reforming the act of lobbying will allow for lobbyists to practice their profession in a fashion that complies with the constitution and the interests of the American public.
I believe the act of lobbying should be reformed in a way where every lobbyist is required to report every incident of lobbying with full disclosure as to what took place on a website that can be accessed by the public. Failure to lobby without reporting to this governmental website in full accuracy will result in a sentencing to federal prison. If lobbyists are forced to display their lobbying acts on a public website with full disclosure, the chances of someone choosing to partake in a lobbying act that would initiate public out roar is greatly reduced. I also believe that a federal governing body should be issued to ensure that lobbyists are complying with the solution that I propose.
It is undeniable to accept the fact that lobbying is a very complex problem in American politics that demands reform. Choosing to reform the act of lobbying in a way that allows for lobbyists to practice their profession without impeding the wellbeing of the American public is the best way to go about handling corruption on capital hill caused by the act of lobbying.

Works Cited
Calabresi, Massimo. "When The Democrats Take Back K Street." Time
168.23 (2006): 48-49. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Apr.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money. Dir. Alex Gibney.
Magnolia, 2010. DVD.
Davis, Lanny. "Lobbyists Are Good People, Too." The Huffington Post.
17 Nov. 2008. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.
Katel, Peter. "Lobbying Boom." CQ Researcher 22 July 2005: 613-36.
Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
"Monsanto Protection Act' Sneaks Through
Senate." Yahoo!, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
Mullins, Brody, Jenny Strasburg, and Tom McGinty. "Stocks' Surge Is
Linked to Lobbyist." Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition 17 Apr. 2013: C1+. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.
Obama, Barrack. "President Obama Speaks on Common-Sense
Measures to Reduce Gun Violence." The White House, Washington DC. 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 18 Apr. 2013
"Does The Legislative Transparency And Accountability Act Provide For
Sufficient Reforms? Con." Congressional Digest 85.5 (2006): 139-147. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.

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