Originally posted 2009-07-23 21:55:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The Constitution lays the foundation for a relationship between the people and their government. This relationship is, to a significant degree, founded on the trust that each citizen places with their elected representatives. These representatives, whether local, regional or national, by being elected to their posts, accept the responsibility of supporting their constituents’ ideals, goals and principles. They become servants of the people, an extension of their individual voices in the collective government they comprise.
There is a game we used to play as kids called “echo,” where each player would whisper something in their neighbor’s ear, who in turn would whisper what they thought they heard to their neighbor, and so on. Inevitably, a humorous concoction of snippets of the original sentence would emerge at the end of the line. A completely innocent game of listening and interpretation, with each player having only one objective – to relay the message with as much accuracy as possible. Even with only three players – a source, middle and recipient – very rarely would the recipient receive the original message intact.
Now let’s inject an agenda into the game. How would the outcome be affected if the middle player was induced by the school bully to distort the message and to influence the recipient’s apprehension of the original message’s content? Surely meaning would be lost. In the innocence of the game, one might even ascribe humor to the outcome. But what if the stakes were higher, much higher?
In the dynamics of communications between the people and their government, a highly biased and results-motivated middle man agent is injected. He is called The Lobbyist and he enters directly into the path of the people’s voice. His intentions are indeed highly motivated. His agenda has nothing to do with accurately communicating the people’s voice. His intentions are in fact highly distortive to the communications process.
Most sources attribute the birth of the Lobbyist to the administration of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant would often walk to lobby of the Willard Hotel not far from the White House to enjoy his favorite cigars. His routine was quickly picked up by politicians who would find this time a perfect opportunity to solicit him with special requests for support of various matters. The term “lobbyist” emerged from these interactions.
Political lobbying has historically been regarded as an “unclean” activity, shunned away from by most politicians who otherwise prided themselves on the purity of their intentions and reputation. This attitude changed dramatically in the 1980’s as political lobbying became more and more lucrative (and thereby corrupted), and professional lobbying firms sprouted all across the political landscape, backed by large enterprises and their financial sponsorship of various causes. According to a Washington Post article, “The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.”
In the first 2 weeks in office President Obama nominated 17 professional lobbyists to several key advisory positions in his administration. These included Eric Holder as attorney general, Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, William Lynn as deputy defense secretary, and fourteen others. Notwithstanding his campaign promise to keep his administration clean of ex-lobbyists, he continues to follow, with perhaps even more vigor than his predecessors, the practice of surrounding himself with influence-peddling bureaucrats. As HotAir.com points out, the president has conspicuously offered himself “For Sale” to all interested (and willing to pay-to-play) interest groups, and his actions since then, including the scandalous deal with the UAW in connection with the GM bailout, are a testament to the fact that he is indeed a player.
Are all lobby activities necessarily bad? Don’t lobbyists sometimes also represent the people’s interest on important issues? Doesn’t the NRA, for example, do good work on behalf of citizens concerned about protecting the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution (our right to keep and bear arms)? What about the lobbies that work to protect the rights of the underprivileged, to protect our borders, to promote education?
Inasmuch as many such lobby organizations may be motivated by righteous ideals, the institution of the lobby system is by its own formulation corrupt. When influence is bought with currency, if not directly into a politician’s pocket, then through the barter of monetize-able influences, good intentions are quickly polluted by commercial transactions and ethical compromises. The lobbyist necessarily becomes the undesirable relay agent a political game of Echo, placing himself in line of the people’s communication path with their government.
In a government “of the People, by the People and for the People” (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) there is no place for a translator of the people’s voice in government. Our elected representatives are our channel of communication. With the rise in the influence of the lobbyist, it seems we’ve empowered a commercially incentivized third party to interpret our voice. And while our elected representatives have become too lazy to directly listen to our needs and calls for action, the lobbyist-translated messages do not reflect our original interests, meaning and intent.
There is increasing peril in allowing our representative form of government to continue to be warped by the influences that a financially motivated and ethically tainted system of lobby influences has on our relationship with our government. While attempts to reform the present system by imposing registration requirements, disclosing contributions and other transparency measures are a good first start (see Ethics and Lobbying Reform Act of 2006 and Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act of 2007, they fall far short of tangibly reducing the influence the lobby industry has on the activities of our government and re-connecting the people back to their elected representatives.
If our elected officials want our respect, trust and vote, then engage with us in a real and direct dialog without the middle man. Playing “echo” was fun when we were kids. Now let’s grow up and take responsibility for having a serious, adult conversation.
Mr. Government Representative – please look me straight in the eyes, listen to me and tell me what you stand for. You might be surprised to find out that I might actually believe you.