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POLS 3440 (65)
Lecture

UNIT 09 2013.docx

3 Pages
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Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLS 3440
Professor
Geoff Stevens

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UNIT 09: LOBBYING: MONEY AND POWER (AND FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES) OBJECTIVES: After completing this unit, you should be able to: • Assess the role and activities of lobbyists • describe the principal features of the Lobbyists’ Registration Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct • identify the weaknesses in the current rules and enforcement. LECTURE This week we will look at one of the dark sides of politics – lobbying and the influential role played by professional lobbyists. Lobbying is sometimes described as the world’s second oldest profession (after prostitution). Both professions have image problems. Lobbying, however, is actually a government-regulated industry. As specified in the federal Lobbying Act: “A person is lobbying when he or she, for payment, on behalf of a person or organization, communicates with a public office holder in respect of a matter of public policy or to set up a meeting between a public office holder and another person.” Mr. Justice John Gomery, in his second report on the Sponsorship Scandal, describes lobbying as “a burgeoning part of our political system.” Depending on one’s point of view, it may be seen as a cancer on the political system or a benign, even useful, force in a smoothly functioning democracy. Lobbyists are people who earn their living by making things happen. They open doors; they introduce their clients to decision-makers; they write presentations; they advise on strategy; they make sure decision-makers have all the information they need; and, if necessary, they use political clout to get a favourable decision for their client. There are no innocents in political lobbying. Access and influence are the currency of the business. A lobbyist who get his client’s case in front of the right bureaucrat or politician and persuades them to accept the client’s position can become very prosperous very quickly. This not the Wild West, however. The federal government moved to rein in lobbyists back in 1989 with the passage of the Lobbyists Registration Act(LRA).Now renamed the Lobbying Act, the created a Lobbyists’ Registry administered by a Registrar of Lobbyists. After 1989, anyone who wanted to lobby the federal government, its politicians or bureaucrats, had to sign up. They had to say who they were, who they represented, what files or issues they were working on, and which people in the federal government they were dealing with. The registry is public, creating a degree of transparency that never before existed. Between 1995 and 1997 amendments strengthened the act, required lobbyists to disclose more detailed information, and established a Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. You will find the code in your Unit 09 readings. In 2002-2003, the act was tightened again; lobbyists were required to submit more information; and lobbying itself was more clearly defined. The legislation had two purposes: to product the public from corrupt behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing; and to give the lobbying industry a professional status and credibility it had not had previously. Sleazy players and marginal operators were screened out. Those who remained – if not exactly bearing a Good Housekeeping seal of approval – could at least claim the respectability of being registered. As respectable participants in the process, they could attract clients, command higher fees and be treated as being something better than prostitutes or parasites on the body politic. As lobbyists themselves see it, their role is to make dealing with big government a more manageable, predictable and productive exercise for their clients. Or, as Scott Proudfoot of the Hillwatch lobbying firm puts it (see Unit 09 readings), the function is to level the playing field so that David (the client) has a fair shot at Goliath (the government). There are good lobbyists and bad ones. Good lobbyists bring relevant and important information to the attention of decision-makers, encourage dialogue and promote accommodation. Bad lobbyists sow confusion, inject contention and partisanship into decision-making, and introduce corrupt practices (e.g. bribery, influence-peddling) into the equation. Despite the respectability confer
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