Lobbying and the Democratic Process
William and Mary Policy Review, Vol. 2, No. 265, 2011
22 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 17, 2011
Despite its negative reputation, lobbying is an important vehicle for ensuring citizen participation in the democratic process, allowing a vibrant and participatory democracy. This article supports the pluralistic theory of democracy, which views democracy as an arena in which interest groups struggle to attain the utmost realization of their interests. Yet social scientists have repeatedly shown that the modus operandi of lobbyists and interest groups casts a heavy shadow over the pluralistic vision of a vibrant and participatory democracy, and that interest groups' lobbying comes often at the expense of the majority. The article identifies three flaws in the democratic process resulting from lobbying: personal corruption (the 'revolving door' phenomenon and the dependence of representatives on campaign financing); unequal power of influence resulting in the distortion of the public agenda; and niche lobbying without competitive counter lobbying. Concentrating on the problem of lack of competition, we suggest that the existing transparency requirements of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, 1995 do not attain the goal of creating a rivalry of the type that the pluralistic conception seeks to advance. We propose to expand the scope of the transparency requirements in the law, by requiring lobbyists to publish online all written material transmitted to politicians and to list all areas of lobbying activity. This requirement, we believe, will reduce monitoring costs for rival interest groups and is likely to increase competitive lobbying.
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