lobbyist (noun): a person whose job is to lobby for a cause
to lobby (verb): attempting to influence government decision-makers with respect to specified issues
Once upon a time (some think), in our nation's nascent days, activists would gather in the lobbies of DC's most hoppin' government offices, waiting to bend lawmakers' ears. Those professional lobby-hanger-outers of yore = lobbyists of today.
Lobbyists differ from regular ol' constituents in that the former are paid to make their cases and influence policy. They aren't simply the stakeholders. They aren't even advocates, per se. Their jobs aren't to educate the public so that we vote in particular ways. Their jobs are to educate Congress to vote particular ways. Goin' straight to the source, these guys...
Naturally, then, in order to be good at their jobs, lobbyists must create deep connections and solid relationships with powerful lawmakers. Which leads to our catch...
(Yes, of course, there's a catch.)
Sometimes, politicians leave Washington for far more lucrative jobs lobbying for big corporations. We're talking millions upon millions of dollars more lucrative. Critics say that businesses have been known to offer these megabucks pay raises to members of Congress who are still in office -- who then feel pressure, allegiance and, let's face it, incentive to influence laws on behalf of their future employers.
Sorta sounds like buying the law, huh?
But wait! Not all lobbyists are corrupt and greedy! Many are hard-working idealists truly busting their butts to make sure Washington favors justice for oft-overlooked causes. Consider AAA, MADD and the AARP. (Again with the acronyms!) Think about groups representing medicine or civil rights or education. Lobbying is a way to ensure that lawmakers aren't working in a vacuum. Unfortunately, sealing out sketchy deals is no guarantee.
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