DEFINITION of 'Lobby'

Lobby is a group of like-minded people banded together to influence an authoritative body, or, as a verb, to exert that influence (i.e., "to lobby"). A lobby is typically formed to influence government officials to act in a way that is beneficial to the lobby's best interests, either through favorable legislation or by blocking unfavorable measures. Lobby groups consist of individuals, groups and companies and can be particularly active and well-funded by certain industries. Because of the negative effect lobbies can have by essentially circumventing the democratic process, some countries feel the need to regulate their activities.

'Lobby'

Lobbyists crawling around Washington D.C. and state capitals may serve a positive role in illuminating or clarifying issues germane to industries or professions, but they are generally viewed pejoratively as "special interest" groups. Lobbies are paid substantial amounts of money by their clients to sway the decisions of lawmakers to pass advantageous legislation for dozens of industries, most prominent of which are pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, insurance, aerospace and defense, utilities, banks and real estate. There is even a lobby for lobbyists. To quote Tony Montana in Scarface, "In this country...when you get money, you get the power." It's a two-way street in the halls of power - a lobby will contribute to a lawmaker's campaign fund in return for his or her vote for a piece of legislation that will benefit the industry. It may not seem fair to the average American that an interest group can "buy" a vote, but that is how it works in politics. Despite anti-lobbying rhetoric spewed by a candidate on the campaign trail, the candidate, if elected into office, does little or nothing to put an end to special interest money. In fact, these politicians often expose themselves as hypocrites when they accept donations from lobbies.

Are All Lobbies Bad?

Practical-minded people will note that competing interests in a democratic process is natural. Where lines may be drawn, however, are in cases that are considered harmful to society by a majority of Americans. There is debate whether guns and tobacco fit this category. Processed foods, sugary drinks and expensive drugs? Some do not like the lobbies that push their agendas. Also, if a lobby simply outspends a competing interest to get what it wants, the question of fairness arises. There are lobbies, on the other hand, that are seen positively - even as essential where the public good is concerned. These lobbies are tied to environmental groups, education and human rights advocates, to name a few. These lobbies won't be as well-funded as the the industries and interest groups that oppose them, but at least they will have a voice.

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