A Perspective on Lobbying
For ages, lobbying (lobbyists) has been a controversial issue. Many people complain lobbyists further the interests of powerful elites and imbalance the democratic process. While the others claim lobbying has built up a bridge between organization and government, and enhanced the pluralism society. As a big fan of lobbying, I got my first impression on lobbyist from Confucius who was once a famous statesman in the Spring and Autumn Period (771 BC-476 BC). With his profound but unachievable political thoughts, Confucius traveled through various states on lobbying tours in the hope of rectifying society and helping people. Since then lobbying has been developed for centuries all over the world. I believe it is a rational existence. So all the following research findings were organized to support my belief.
Lobbying involves communicating the client’s aims and preferences and advising clients how to influence public policy. In reality professional lobbyists can be described in a number of ways, such as public affairs consultant, government relations counselor, communications adviser, regulatory specialist or parliamentary officer.
The most comprehensive definition of a lobbying firm is provided by the Association of Professional Political Consultants: Individual partnership or company (including divisions of companies) who either hold themselves out as offering consultancy services (meaning advice, representation, research, monitoring or administrative assistance provided for commercial gain by a professional political consultant relating to the institutions of UK central and local government and/or other public bodies) whether such activities are the principal business of that consultant or are ancillary or incidental to it, such work in each case being undertaken for their parties for commercial gain.
According to Nownes (2006), there are three basic kinds: (1) public policy lobbying, (2) land use lobbying, and (3) procurement lobbying.
(1) is the lobbying that accompanies government decisions (e.g. laws, rules, regulations) made in response to societal demands for action on important issues of the day.
(2) is the lobbying that accompanies government decisions rendered in response to specific requests for permission to utilize land in a certain way.
(3) is the lobbying that accompanies government decisions concerning which specific goods or services the government will purchase.
Representing organized interests of all kinds & Balancing the pluralism society
Although private companies are the largest client group, trade unions, local authorities, public bodies and campaign groups also hire lobbyists. Figure 1.1 shows the breakdown of Association of Professional Political Consultants’ members’ clients.
Providing considerable different services
Many of the lobbying techniques listed in Table 2 (Nownes, 2006) indicate that lobbyists are just communication experts closely connected to politics.
The industry is now increasing and the following reasons are accelerating the growth.
1. Government has become dependent upon interest groups for information, advice and the implementation of policy. A ‘consultation culture’ developed after the Second World War (Middlemas, 1991). Conservative governments brought the professional lobbyist to the fore. What’s more, the more and more complicated structure of government has also encouraged a proliferation of lobbying.
2. Increased lobbying may be the consequence of government’s increased scope in setting corporation tax and regulations (Jordan, 1991). As government has become more intrusive, organizations have been forced to become politically involved (Schlozman & Tierney, 1983).
1. The private sector increasingly relies on public subsidies and general economic decisions.
2. The lack of innate empathy between government and organizations dealing with it has contributed to the rise of professional lobbying (Miller, 1988).
3. Business reacted slowly to the activity of environmentalists and consumer protection groups in the 1970s. Trade associations were established to represent their interests. Corporations also hired professional lobbyists to fight their corner (Wilson, 1991).
1. The increased workload of ministers and MPs means the old style of personal contact lobbying is less effective. MPs also lack the opportunity, because they are both too busy and not expert enough, to act as an interface between interest groups and government. Therefore outside groups turn to lobbyists.
2. The complexity and length of parliamentary processes has encouraged lobbying.
3. There was also an increase in the willingness of MPs to engage in lobbying work.
Practitioners and experts have been devoting themselves to refining the industry in UK.
- The UK lobbying industry has long favoured a self-regulatory model, with lobbyists’ contact with ministers and MPs regulated through a voluntary register and non-statutory codes of conduct.
- CIPR put forward some tactics to promote ethical behavior in 2009, such as, kite mark scheme, a register of lobbyists and content of lobbying register.
- In March 2010 the lobbying industry formed the UK Public Affairs Council (UKPAC), an umbrella body launched by the three main industry bodies, the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).
- 2012, Government: “We will regulate lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists and ensuring greater transparency.”
- Nownes (2006):
After an intensive research in US, the lobbying scholar Nownes claimed “There are tens of thousands of lobbyists in America today. Very few of them have ever been arrested for illegal behavior, and it appears that almost all of them behave ethically and professionally most of the time.”
- Davis (2007):
Lobbying plays a legitimate role is democracy.
- Kevin Moloney (2009):
Public Affairs is a “voice” which aids organizations and groups of all shapes and sizes (commercial, non-profit; public, private; religious, secular) communicate with each other as well as with government either in public or private at any level.
Moloney is optimistic that the situation is changing, citing the long history concerned citizens lobbying for public interests, as part of a long journey towards a more inclusive servicing of subordinate interests.
- Chari et al (2010):
Lobbying is an integral part of the deliberative democratic process, “Lobbyists are an accepted element within society, providing the necessary input and feedback into the political system, thereby helping to develop the policy outputs which drive political and economic aspects of our daily lives.”
Some real cases were presented to showcase the good will of lobbying.
- Anti-gambling lobby wins award
A £10,000 PR campaign that took on the Government and the gambling industry scooped the PR Strategy gong at Third Sector’s Excellence Awards 2005.
- Securing Additional Funding for the Children’s Hospice
The Northern Ireland Hospice (NIH) is a charity, which provides care and specialist services for adults, children and young people across Northern Ireland with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses. NIH hired public affairs to conduct a campaign. The effective lobbying delivered tangible results for clients. The lobbyists engaged the Department of Health and the Health Minister announced an additional recurrent statutory funding of £245,000 for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice for financial year 2010/2011.
- Suu Kyi Lobby’s for Constitutional Reform
Aung San Suu Kyi, Steel Orchid, Heroine for Humanity, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Burmese pro-democracy campaigner, Burmese opposition leader, she is now using lobbying to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma.
Lobbying is just a tool and whether it is good or not depending on how to use it. It, when done in the right way, will promote democracy by aiding decision-makers make balanced decisions through lobbyists’ specialist knowledge and provide assistance to the underclass people. Besides, many professionals keep trying to refine the industry and its reputation by enhancing the transparency and taking media supervision. So there are reasons for us to believe in the promising future of lobbying.