By Eric Anderson
Picture for me if you will: a suave, clean cut, well dressed man sitting around the table with several other, equally well-groomed congressmen. They are discussing economic policy and sharing laughs at the expense of “insert foreign country here” while sipping their third and a half round of brandy after their $85 dollar steaks. As these men are leaving the first gentleman picks up the bill for dinner and discreetly hands one of the of the congressmen a manila envelope filled with unmarked bills and suggests him to “make the right choice.” We all know how Hollywood has depicted lobbyists, and while this is a thrilling way to imagine the way that lobbyists operate, it is overwhelmingly misleading.
Today I had the opportunity to sit down with two lobbyists and get to know the real life of a Washington DC lobbyist. Unfortunately, my expectation of “Hollywood-ized” characters was not met – which is probably for the best; it would be hard to swallow that much political corruption happening in this country. Rather, these two gentlemen see their job as providing a voice for the corporation that they work for and are impassioned by the ideas that they are sharing with their political counterparts – generally views that they hold themselves – making a deeper connection with policy easier.
Because of the light that Hollywood sheds onto lobbyists, people will often jump to the conclusion that lobbyists are one of the biggest problems that Washington faces politically. However, this is simply not true – we look at our elected officials as a voice of the people, speaking and making decisions on our behalf; lobbyists are the voice of companies and organizations, speaking on policies that they would like to encourage politicians to work on.
This is not the typical kind of light that people are accustomed to when looking at lobbyists because it is never the type of lobbyist that we see portrayed in the media. Quit selling the ethics of lobbyists short and start realizing that they are another voice for individuals within Congress.