Earlier today, I attended a breakfast at ASAE with some of my government relations colleagues. Our guest speaker was Anna Palmer, a reporter for Politico. Politico, as you would imagine, covers national and international politics. Anna’s beat is the world I live in, lobbying.
During the discussion, someone commented on the use of the words lobbying and advocacy in the news. Specifically, they noticed that when the story carried a negative tone, lobbying and lobbyists are used. When the story is more upbeat, advocacy and advocates are used. Don’t believe me? Watch the recent 60 Minutes interview with Jack Abramoff. Lobbyists are referred to as crooked and arrogant. Abramoff even used the word moral as if the majority of lobbyists are corrupt. The word advocate? Yup, never mentioned.
However, don’t be fooled: they mean the same thing. Government Relations, Advocacy, Lobbying. All three describe the work that I do for my association. However, the word lobbying has been twisted into something short of an epithet. We have presidential candidates who insist they’re not lobbyists but acting as concerned citizens (Hi Newt!). I have colleagues who have lobbied for years, but insist that they be called consultants. We’re at the point where we encourage our association members to go to Capitol Hill as advocates not lobbyists because advocacy is good and lobbying is bad.
This madness has got to stop. Lobbying is not a bad word. It’s protected by the Constitution. It has helped bring about positive change. There’s way more good in lobbying than bad. It’s time we take our word back from those who misuse it.