Lobbying is not a four-letter word

Earlier today, I attended a breakfast at ASAE with some of my government relations colleagues.  Our guest speaker was Anna Palmer, a reporter for PoliticoPolitico, 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.

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6 thoughts on “Lobbying is not a four-letter word

  1. Can there be lobbyists for a good cause and advocates for a bad cause? Is Grover Norquist a lobbyist or .. an advocate? I want to agree with you, Stef – always – and on this, I am struggling. Maybe it’s not the profession that’s bad but some of the people who do it and the issues they represent? There are some things I can’t support: tobacco, guns, anti-healthcare ….

  2. Thank you as always Joan for your thoughtful comments. There’s good and bad in this industry from the causes represented to the people representing them. To answer question about Norquist, he’s both as far as I’m concerned. Regardless of the subject matter, he’s pushing an issue just as I do. My intent with this post was to highlight how the word lobbying tends to be used negatively regardless of the individual or the cause.

  3. Wonderful post! It made me think of a conversation I had with friends and family a few years ago. Around the Thanksgiving table, folks were complaining about lobbyists. Ahem, I coughed. When they looked at me, I had to remind them that I was one of those “bad” people. But you work with credit unions, they said. Yep, I said. And that’s what I lobby about. It opened their eyes a wee bit on the subject!

  4. HERE HERE! I JUST had this conversation with someone and they argued with me that lobbyists weren’t “the good people.” Advocates were. It’s just so frustrating because they have the same meaning and both fight (or LOBBY) for the rights of people. Love this, and I agree with you. Let’s take the word back to the positive side. 🙂

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