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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lobbying (also Lobby) is a form of advocacy with the intention of influencing decisions made by legislators and officials in the government by individuals, other legislators, constituents, or advocacy groups. A lobbyist is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying which has become very influential on policy.



Economist Thomas Sowell defends corporate lobbying as simply an example of a group having better knowledge of its interests than the people at large do of theirs.[1]

The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee argued that while there are shortcomings in the regulation of the lobbying industry in the United Kingdom, "The practice of lobbying in order to influence political decisions is a legitimate and necessary part of the democratic process. Individuals and organisations reasonably want to influence decisions that may affect them, those around them, and their environment. Government in turn needs access to the knowledge and views that lobbying can bring."[2]

In the United States the Internal Revenue Service makes a clear distinction for nonprofit organisations between lobbying and advocacy limiting the former to "asking policymakers to take a specific position on a specific piece of legislation, or that ask others to ask the same"; common language the definition of lobbying is normally broader. Other activities such to influence policies, possibly including public demonstrations and the filing of "friend of the court briefs" are termed as "advocacy".[3]

Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying.[4][5][6][7]

Interest groups concentrate their efforts on the legislatures, where laws are created. They will also use the judicial branch to advance their causes.

They often use a legal device known as amicus curiae, literally "friend of the court," briefs to try and influence court cases. Briefs are written documents filed with a court, typically by parties to a lawsuit. Amicus curiae briefs are briefs filed by people or groups who are not parties to a suit.

These briefs are entered into the court records, and give additional background on the matter being decided upon. Interest groups use these briefs to both share their expertise and promote their positions.

Of course, interest groups are free to, and often do, take direct legal action. The NAACP, for example, filed suits in state and federal courts in the 1950s to challenge segregation laws. Their efforts resulted in the Supreme Court declaring such laws unconstitutional.

At any given time, there are hundreds of cases in state and federal courts in which interest groups are suing in hopes of winning lawsuits to help their members. Court victories, in addition to their legal benefits, can make the headlines and give interest groups a lot of publicity.[citation needed]


The BBC holds that "lobbying" comes from the gathering of Members of Parliament and peers in the hallways (or lobbies) of Houses of Parliament before and after parliamentary debates.[8] One story states that the term originated at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, where it was used by Ulysses S. Grant to describe the political wheelers and dealers frequenting the hotel's lobby in order to access Grant, who was often found there, enjoying a cigar and brandy.[9]

The term "lobbying" appeared in print as early as 1820:[10]

Other letters from Washington affirm, that members of the Senate, when the compromise question was to be taken in the House, were not only "lobbying about the Representatives' Chamber" but also active in endeavoring to intimidate certain weak representatives by insulting threats to dissolve the Union.

— April 1, 1820, New Hampshire Sentinel

Dictionary definitions:

  • 'Lobbying' (also 'Lobby') is a form of advocacy with the intention of influencing decisions made by the government by individuals or more usually by Lobby groups; it includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents, or organized groups.[11][12]
  • A 'lobbyist' is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby.[13]

Lobbying by country

United Kingdom

The terms 'lobby' and 'lobbying referred to discussions which attempted to influence an MP's vote by either their fellow parliamentary colleagues, by one of their constituents or by any outside organisation and which took place in the lobby of parliament. A professional lobbying industry (also known as 'public affairs') has been steadily growing in recent years and was estimated to be worth £1.9 billion and employ 14,000 people in 2007 with some MPs being contacted 100 times a week.[14]. It is recognised that funding political parties can also be an indirect form of effective political influence. Following legislation of disclosure of contributions to campaigning, donations to parties some were described as loans.[15] Some contributions to party funds were being used to 'Buy peerages' allowing the person to participate directly in the legislative process.

Recently many recent MPs and in particular Ministers are recruited by lobby firms and lobbyists have been recruited by ministers as 'special advisors' using what is termed the Revolving door of influence. In 2009 the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee recommended the a statutory register of lobbying activity and lobbyists would improve transparency to the dealings between Whitehall decision makers and outside interests.[16] Parliament controversially responded to this recommendation by saying that self-regulation was more practice.[17] The Conservative leader, David Cameron, predicted that it was "the next big scandal waiting to happen" and was one that had "tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money"[18]

United States

The ability of individuals, groups, and corporations to lobby the government is protected by the right to petition[19] in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Lobbyists use time spent with legislators to explain the goals of the organizations which they represent and the obstacles elected officials face when dealing with issues, to clients.

Lobbying activities are also performed at the state level, and lobbyists try to influence legislation in the state legislatures in each of the 50 states. At the local municipal level, some lobbying activities occur with city council members and county commissioners, especially in the larger cities and more populous counties.

Since 1998, 43 percent of the 198 members of Congress who left government to join private life have registered to lobby using the 'revolving door of influence'. The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 and Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 increased regulation and transparency. In 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama signed two related executive orders and three presidential memoranda on his first day in office.[20] to help ensure his administration would be a more open, transparent, and accountable government.

European Parliament

As the EU more influence as a major political player in the world, the more policy areas it covered, the more important it became as a lobbying target. With the EU enlargement in 2004 this development has taken a further step, bringing in not only a lot more players and stakeholders but also a wide range of different political cultures and traditions.

There are currently around 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels (consultants, lawyers, associations, corporations, NGOs etc.) seeking to influence the EU’s legislative process. Some 2,600 special interest groups have a permanent office in Brussels. Their distribution is roughly as follows: European trade federations (32%), consultants (20%), companies (13%), NGOs (11%), national associations (10%), regional representations (6%), international organizations (5%) and think tanks (1%), (Lehmann, 2003, pp iii).[citation needed]

The fragmented nature of EU institutional structure provides multiple channels through which organized interests may seek to influence policy-making. Lobbying takes place at the European level itself and within the existing national states. The most important institutional targets are the Commission, the Council, and the European Parliament.[21] The Commission has a monopoly on the initiative in Community decision-making. Since it has the power to draft initiatives, it makes it ideally suited as an arena for interest representation. There are three main channels of indirect lobbying of the Council. First, lobbying groups routinely lobby the national delegations in Brussels. The second indirect means of lobbying the Council is for interest groups to lobby members of the many Council-working groups. The third means of influencing the Council is directly via national governments. As a consequence of the co-decision procedures, the European Parliament attracts attention from lobbyists who target the rapporteur and the chairman of the committee. The rapporteurs are MEPs appointed by Committees to prepare the parliament’s response to the Commission’s proposal and to those measures taken by the Parliament itself.

Lobbying in Brussels was born only in the late 1970s. Up to that time, "diplomatic lobbying" at the highest levels remained the rule. There were few lobbyists involved in the system and except for some business associations, representative offices were rarely used. The event that sparked the explosion of lobbying was the first direct election of the European Parliament in 1979. Up until then the Parliament consisted of a complex, and companies increasingly felt the need of an expert local presence to find out what was going on in Brussels. The foundation of lobbying was therefore the need to provide information. From that developed the need to influence the process actively and effectively. The next important step in lobbying development was the Single European Act of 1986 which both created the qualified majority vote for taking decisions in the Council and enhanced the role of the Parliament, again making EU legislation more complex and lobbying further more important and attractive for stakeholders.

In the wake of the Abramoff scandal in Washington and the massive impact that this had on the lobbying scene in the United States, the rules for lobbying in the EU—which until now consist of only a non-binding code of conduct-—may also be tightened.[22]


In France, the political system does not integrate the lobbying practice. Much French republican thought has been suspicious of the claims of "particular interests," which are often contrasted with the "general interest" of the nation. This is one interpretation of Rousseau's Social Contract, for example. So while lobbying has always been practiced in France, organized lobbying made a significant appearance in France only in the early 1980s. Since then, it has steadily grown; many interest groups routinely seek to influence the French institutions as the Government and the French Parliament (“National Assembly” and “Senate”). In order to make up the lost time, more and more French enterprises try to organize their own lobbies by creating their own public affairs department. In recent years, growing numbers of grassroots and grasstop lobbies have been organized by citizen groups, representing interests such as genetically modified organisms and software piracy.

But there is currently no regulation at all for lobbying activities in France and, as a consequence, this practice suffers from a lack of transparency. There is no regulated access to the French institutions and no register. For example, the internal rule of the National Assembly (art. 23 and 79) forbid to members of Parliament to be linked with a particular interest. However, MPs don’t have to declare their interest and the list of MPs' assistants is not public. At last, there is no rule at all for consultation of interest groups by the Parliament and the Government. Nevertheless, a recent parliamentary initiative (motion for a resolution) [23] has been launched by several MPs so as to establish a register for representatives of interest groups and lobbyists who intend to lobby the MPs. The purpose of this initiative is to introduce standards of conduct and access to the National Assembly. Through the use of a register, these standards of conduct and access will enable the Assembly to identify and maintain a list of the representatives of interest groups who follow legislative activity and to supervise fully the access of those representatives to the National Assembly. This motion has not been adopted yet.

Other countries

Only countries where lobbying is regulated in parliament bills include:

See also


  1. ^ Sowell, Thomas. Knowledge and Decisions
  2. ^ Public Administration Select Committee (5 January 2009). "Lobbying: Access and influence in Whitehall" (pdf). Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  3. ^ "Lobbying Versus Advocacy: Legal Definitions". NP Action. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  4. ^ Non-Profit Action description of "Lobbying Versus Advocacy: Legal Definitions".
  5. ^ U.S. Senate definition of Lobbying.
  6. ^ Andrew Bounds and Marine Formentinie in Brussels, EU Lobbyists Face Tougher Regulation, Financial Times, August 16, 2007.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ BBC Definition of "lobbying"
  9. ^ NPR - A Lobbyist by Any Other Name? - NPR discussion of Ulysses Grant and origins of the term lobbyist.
  10. ^ Deanna Gelak (previous president of the American League of Lobbyists) mentioned this in her book Lobbying and Advocacy: Winning Strategies, Resources, Recommendations, Ethics and Ongoing Compliance for Lobbyists and Washington Advocates, TheCapitol.Net, 2008,
  11. ^ "lobbying". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.Com. 
  12. ^ "lobbying". BBC News. 
  13. ^ "lobbist". Random House Unabridged Dictionary. 2006. 
  14. ^ Dr Phil Parvin (January 2007). "Friend or Foe? Lobbying in British democracy" (PDF). Hansard Society. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  15. ^ "Police loans inquiry is widened". BBC News. 30 March 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  16. ^ Public Administration Select Committee (5 January 2009). "PASC calls for a register of lobbying activity". Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  17. ^ "Government rejects call for lobbying register". Civil Society. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  18. ^ "David Cameron warns lobbying is next political scandal". Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  19. ^ "The Right to Petition". Illinois First Amendment Center. 
  20. ^ Ethics
  21. ^ Kierkegaard, Sylvia (2005) How the Cookie (almost crumbled). Computer Law and Security Report Vol.21 Issue 4
  22. ^ Green Paper on European Transparency Initiative European Commission, 2006. Retrieved September 20, 2009
  23. ^ French National Assembly : Motion for a Resolution on Lobbying (21 November 2006)
  24. ^ a b c d GLOSSARY - Alphabetical list of terms associated with the Lobbying industry.
  25. ^


External links

United States



Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Lobbying is the practice of influencing decisions made by government, whether by other legislators, constituents, or organized groups.


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