There’s a lot of talk about how lobbying is bad for democracy. It seems you hear reports of unethical practices on an almost daily basis, always bearing bad news of corruption and scandal. The truth of lobbying is much less bleak, and despite the bad publicity, lobbying, like any other part of politics, is a tool that can be used for good. Here are some legal changes that only came about because of effective lobbying, and most agree they’ve made the world a better place.
The Violence Against Women Act was originally signed into effect in 1994. In 2005, it was set to expire, so a DC lobbyist group led by Mary Kay invaded Washington to push for a renewal. The promotion involved educating legislators on a number of issues regarding women’s safety, and by the end of the campaign, George W. Bush signed an extension that allocated an additional $500 million to help combat domestic violence and sexual assault.
In the more recent education reform movement, a majority of American schools abandoned the practice of recess to spend more time on studying. An unforeseen consequence of that maneuver was a sharp increase in child obesity and other health issues. Once again, DC lobbyists stepped up to help, and they started the Rescuing Recess initiative. While this battle is still ongoing, they have successfully seen recess reestablished for millions of kids, and their programs have improved the previously declining health trends.
It will probably surprise you to read this one, but Shell and a few other major players in the oil industry have spearheaded lobbying in attempt to improve conservationism. In this particular case, the primary goal has been to combat the shrinking wetlands in the Louisiana Delta. The approach to solve the issue has involved lobbying for better conservationist legislation, promoting awareness campaigns and investing in research that could lead to a permanent solution to the problem. So far, the efforts have achieved legislation that better manages water routing in the area, and the land recession has slowed as a result.
In another surprising turn of events, major clothing manufacturers enlisted a DC lobbyist campaign to improve manufacturing labor conditions. A U.S. investigation showed that labor laws were not being adequately enforced in Guatemala, and their tax status was in question. In a different post, you may expect to hear about how the lobbyists pushed the government to abandon ethics for the sake of business, but the truth is quite the opposite. Instead, the group shifted their power to influence the Guatemalan government and was able to promote better labor protection laws and enforcement throughout the country.
There are countless other cases of lobbying efforts being used to improve social and ethical conditions in the U.S. and around the world. In the end, it is a tool and resource that is only as good or bad as the people putting it to work.