Students spent the day learning about local, state and federal government; the role of federal agencies; and the importance of federalism in American democracy. Anderson’s comments, which focused on the role lobbyists play in American democracy, can be summed up as follows:
- Lobbyists work for interest groups
An interest group is an organized group of individuals that seeks to influence public policy on the basis of a particular common interest or concern. Interest groups have two primary functions: to sway public opinion and to influence public policy. In order to influence policy, many interest groups hire lobbyists to interact with and sway legislators and government agencies. They can do this in a variety of ways, including providing research, presenting arguments in favor or against proposed legislation and helping to write bills.
- Lobbying has a long and storied history in American politics
You will be hard-pressed to find a piece of legislation that a has been untouched by lobbying efforts. In fact, prior to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison wrote about the role of interest groups and the need to have a large number of them to check one another. Since that time, lobbying has played a pronounced role in our political process.
- Lobbyists help write legislation
This is especially true in the context of state legislatures. Let’s take Utah’s State Legislature for example: Our legislative session is only 45 days long and is made up of part-time legislators who don’t have professional staff. As such, they are in serious need of information and assistance from interest groups and lobbyists who have the expertise and resources to help. Lobbyists provide data, language and support as bills make their way through the legislative process.