Friday, January 27, 2012

Can a lobbying reform bring substantial change to gridlock?

Lobbyists seem to be more and more the target of criticisms as the 2012 presidential election gets nearer and nearer. 

Indeed, while the New York Times's last editorial made the point that Gingrich could not be legally considered a lobbyist despite the fact that he made a lot of money peddling his influence in Washington, President Obama proposed last Tuesday an important lobbying reform.

Such law  would prohibit lobbyists from fund-raising for federal candidates they had lobbied in the previous two years and  prohibit fund-raisers from becoming lobbyists during the same period. There should also be lower limits on how much lobbyists can contribute to federal candidates. A better lobbying law could also modify the definition of who is a lobbyist, so that the work of political consultants like Gingrich would be disclosed.

Reforming lobbying might be a good way to remove some causes of hyperpartisanship that lead to gridlock. Indeed, their need to raise money for their next campaigns not only distract them from their jobs, but also lead them further to the extremes to appeal more lobbying groups. 

It does not mean however that our politicians in Congress would pass such reform. Indeed, they would not close off a possible career in lobbying after they leave office. 

And if against all odds they pass such a reform, will it bring substantial change to the gridlock state of our politics? 
Certainly it would make the lobbying process clearer and more controlled, but it would not prevent politicians to go further to the extremes to get more money from the lobbying groups. A more comprehensive reform targeting not only lobbying but also other phenomenons leading to hyperpartisanship such the primary system might be worth thinking in addressing gridlock.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. There are so many lobbyists across so many interests, that it is hard to say that lobbying pushes members to the ideological extremes. The issues Obama raised about contribution "bundlers" is an interesting one (although, if I am correct, I think I heard him mention that he wanted this to apply to congressional candidates, not candidates for president). Anyway, it seems like bundling is a way to get around the limits on individual contributions, which are intended to reduce corruption. Bundlers can't give more than the limit, but they can "bundle" multiple contributions from friends, fellow employees and in this way increase their influence. Many bundlers are lobbyists, so if bundlers can't lobby, they just will stop bundling.