How Lobbyists Influence Legislation

In the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, John Dickerson writes an interesting article in Slate on how lobbying really works. He explains, unlike what many people think, there is no quid pro quo. Lobbying isn't a trading cash-for-votes deal.

Instead, lobbying is a much subtler activity. The lobbyist gets access, and the legislator (or their staff) use them as a resource to understand an issue. In this way, the legislator's position can become aligned with whichever lobbyists get the access. That's why, after all, SBC has almost as many lobbyists as Texas has legislators. If it was just about cash then SBC would just need one lobbyist and a wheelbarrow. It isn't, it's about influence. Each lobbyist is a touchpoint to increase influence.

Dickerson makes clear that although Abramoff-style kickbacks are not a normal part of the lobbying process, cash is important because it buys access. I hope that when the post-Abramoff lobbying reforms happen, they may restore a little balance, so that the shallow-pocketed citizen groups will become more effective.


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re: How Lobbyists Influence Legislation

So is that ratio of Texas Legislators to SBC/ATT lobbyists including all the lobbyists they activate in other states?

re: How Lobbyists Influence Legislation

Michael - I was talking registered Texas lobbyists alone. Here is an article from two sessions ago when I did a hand count. I don't recall the number of SBC lobbyists from the last sesssion, but it was similar ballpark.

re: How Lobbyists Influence Legislation

From Amendment I of the Bill of Rights:

"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom petition the government for a redress of grievances"

Unfortunately there is no way to directly limit the ability of individuals or groups to lobby Congress (aside from an amendment to the Bill of Rights). The best solution is two-fold: make the $ flow obvious to all through mandatory reporting and term-limits for both Reps and Senators.