Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


After a recent spate of lobbying scandals involving Jack Abramoff among others, Congress passed a lobbying and ethics reform bill banning a wide variety of lobbyist-to-legislator gifts. In so doing, it dealt with lobbyist influence primarily as a quid pro quo corruption problem. But a large body of literature suggests that lobbyists have multiple sources of influence that go way beyond what could be considered "corruption." Lobbyists, for example, are valuable sources of expertise and information, and are often old trusted friends and advisors to key political decision-makers. Even if all money and gifts were banned, lobbyists would likely still play a major role in the policy process.

Moreover, because of various resource and institutional advantages, business associations and individual companies will continue to enjoy a massive mobilization advantage over unions and public interest group organized to countervail them, as they have for as long as political scientists have been keeping track. We argue that those who are concerned with political reform need to keep these considerations in mind. Lobbying is not just a corruption problem. It is also a problem of disproportionate participatory resources. We urge reformers to examine more closely the role of lobbyists as fundraisers and think about ways to institutionalize a public defender model for diffuse, non-corporate interests who often lack representation in the policy-making process.