Political Influences –Lobbyists Overview Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying. Economist Thomas Sowell defends corporate lobbying as simply an example of a group having better knowledge of its interests than the people at large do of theirs. Lobby groups may concentrate their efforts on the legislatures, where laws are created, but may also use the Judicial Branch to advance their causes. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), for example, filed suits in state and federal courts in the 1950s to challenge segregation laws. Its efforts resulted in the Supreme Court declaring such laws unconstitutional. At any given time, there are hundreds of cases in state and federal courts in which advocacy groups are suing in hopes of winning lawsuits to help their members. Court victories, in addition to their legal benefits, can make the headlines and give interest groups a lot of publicity. They may use a legal device known as amicus curiae, literally “friend of the court,” briefs to try and influence court cases. Briefs are written documents filed with a court, typically by parties to a lawsuit. Amines curiae briefs are briefs filed by people or groups who are not parties to a suit. These briefs are entered into the court records, and give additional background on the matter being decided upon. Advocacy groups use these briefs to both share their expertise and promote their positions. The ability of individuals, groups, and corporations to lobby the government is protected by the “right of petition” in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Lobbyists use time spent with legislators and Executive Branch officials to explain the goals of the organizations they represent, and to present those organizations’ points of view. Another important function of lobbyists is to serve as a conduit for information flowing the other way, from officials to the people employing the lobbyists; they can serve as legislative tacticians, determining the best way for an organization to fulfill its goals. Lobbying activities are also performed at the state level, and lobbyists try to influence legislation in the state legislatures in each of the 50 states. At the municipal level, some lobbying activities occur with city council members and county commissioners, especially in the larger cities and more populous counties. Since 1998, 43 percent of the 198 members of Congress who left government to join the private sector have registered to lobby using the “revolving door of influence.” In 2009, President Obama signed two Executive Orders and three Presidential Memoranda on his first day in office governing how former lobbyists can be employed in the government, and restrictions on lobbying once leaving the government. Review This week we also reflect on the structure and function of our American system of government. We have seen that the American concept of democracy rests on five basic notions. First, each individual has worth. Second, all individuals are equal. Third, the majority of the people rules, but the majority must respect the rights of any minority. Fourth, compromise, or the blending and adjusting of competing interests, is necessary. Fifth, each individual must have the widest possible degree of freedom. We have seen that government is the institution through which a society makes and enforces its public policies—all those things a government decides to do. Every government has three kinds of power: legislative power, or the power to establish law; executive power, or the power to carry out the law; and judicial power, or the power to interpret laws and settle disputes. These powers are often outlined in a constitution— the body of laws that sets out a government’s structure, principles, and processes. And, finally, we have learned that, as is stated in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the goals of the our government are to form a more perfect union; establish justice; ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; promote the general welfare; and secure the liberty of its citizens. Learning Objectives Analyze how lobbying occurs in government. Analyze how democracy functions in the United States. Review how public policy is formed or changed. Required Reading Website: http://www.princetonreview.com/Careers.aspx?cid=88
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