The lies lobbyists tell us

5 November 2015

1. That lobbying is about free speech. Then why does it take place behind closed doors?

2. That corporations as persons in the law have the right to this free speech. Someone in the United States has brought a suit to have chimpanzees recognized as persons in the law (in order to protect them). Surely chimpanzees, with a genetic difference from humans of only 1.2%, have a more legitimate claim to personhood than do corporations (with 100%).[1]

3. That lobbying is legal. In a manner of speaking, lobbying may be legal. So is bribing, under the label of political donations, which open those back room doors to lobbying. Corruption, you see, can be legal too.

4. That everyone has access to lobbying. In all manners of speaking, this is not true at all. Lobbying is lop-sided: the formula is one $, one vote. For example, while the vast majority of Americans supported recent legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers, the gun lobby stopped it in the Senate.[2]

5. That lobbying is fundamental to democracy. In fact, lobbying destroys democracy. The self-evident truth today is that only those people who don’t lobby are created equal. The rest are more than equal. Democracy is about more than voting. It is about how fair that voting is in the first place, and how open, accessible, and balanced the expression of interests are after that.

[1] In a column in The New York Times, Anand Giridharadas referred to “three interesting points” made by Sarah Palin in a speech:

First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people. Second that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.” Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private). Palin went on to condemn corporate lobbyists, special interests, and “the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest”, and to distinguish good from bad capitalists, meaning small ones that take risks from big ones that live off bailouts and dodge taxes, while not creating jobs.

[2] David Brooks commented in his New York Times column that “President Obama has certainly not shut corporate-types out of the regulatory process. According to data collected by the Center for Progressive Reforms, 62 percent of the people who met with the White House office in charge of reviewing regulations were representatives of industry, while only 16 percent represented activist groups. At these meetings, business representatives outnumbered activists by more than 4 to 1.” Brooks, a normally sensible columnist, looked favorably upon such business as usual.