This week, CBS Sunday Morning, one of my must-watch shows on tv, dedicated their opening segment to lobbying. The segment, entitled Behind the closed doors of Washington lobbyists was to give viewers a fly on the wall account of the lobbying industry, considered the third largest in DC after the federal government and tourism. While I applaud CBS for covering this topic, I felt it did very little to combat the negative view of the lobbying profession. Now, are there shady lobbyists? Absolutely. I’ve seen them in action. However, the profession has been painted with this broad brush as if every lobbyist is part of some evil plot. Here are some things CBS Sunday Morning somehow forgot to mention in its report.
1. While the updated lobbying regulations were mentioned, they weren’t very specific. Registered lobbyists are required file reports quarterly to the House and Senate on their activities. Twice a year, we are to report on any political contributions we made over $200. If you want to know the issues lobbyists are working or who they are contributing to, go to this website: http://lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov/ . Along the left hand side, there’s an area where you can conduct a search of reports by the lobbyist’s name or the organization they work for.
2. If you have ever contacted your legislator or their staff on an issue of concern, then my friend, you have lobbied. The profession is not as mysterious as many may claim.
3. Lobbying isn’t a gateway to wealth. Yes, there are some lobbyists who make millions of dollars. The vast majority do not. Most of us do not work on K Street and do not have non-Uber town cars taking us to the Hill.
4. Lobbying is slowly but surely becoming a diverse profession. Yet, there was very little visible diversity was featured in the piece. I did find it interesting that the Member of Congress whose meeting was featured in the piece was Chaka Fattah, an African-American member from PA.
5. Besides defeating plans to cap credit card interest rates and making pizza count as a vegetable on school lunch menus, lobbyists also work to make sure your child has a qualified teacher in the classroom. Lobbyists work to make sure children with disabilities get the same opportunities as other children. Lobbyists work to make sure your mental health care needs are covered as well as your physical health.
6. CBS Corporation, the parent company for CBS news, also has a lobbyist.
I encourage you to watch the segment and let me know what you think.