Written by Sarah Metzel - CrowdLobby Fellow
What is lobbying? In American history, lobbying goes back to the freedom to petition, one of the five freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.”
Lobbying falls under your right to petition. More specifically, the goal of lobbying is to influence legislation.
Lobbying can take many forms. For example, an environmental non-profit organization can lobby, putting pressure on Congress by delivering petitions from constituents concerned about air pollution. A school teachers’ union can engage in lobbying by meeting with their local representative to discuss better pay. A seven-year-old can write a letter to the President, lobbying to reunite families at our southern border. In other words, everyone has the right to lobby.
Professional lobbyists are often lawyers or policy experts who are well-connected in the community. They are hired by a client who hopes to achieve a legislative goal. The everyday life of a lobbyist is very people-oriented. They set up meetings with lawmakers to push a specific agenda, and then consult with their client. In some cases, they will even draft legislation, which a lawmaker can choose to consider or ignore. Their goal is to win the hearts and minds of these decision-makers.
Despite that fact that lobbying is a constitutional right, it has an unpopular reputation. It’s easy to frown upon the lobbying activities of powerful special interest groups, especially when one disagrees with the goals of the group. For instance, proponents of clean energy will butt heads with the fossil fuel lobby, and gun control advocates will clash with the National Rifle Association.
However, lobbying is not an inherently immoral or illegal activity. Quite the opposite, to exercise your freedom and challenge the government to respond to peoples’ needs is a beloved American pastime that is essential to our democracy.
That’s why CrowdLobby’s crowdfunded lobbying efforts are so important. As opposed to corporate lobbyists who serve a company, grassroots lobbying campaigns serve the people who get involved. By serving as an outlet for a broader range of voices, Crowdlobby enables citizens to reclaim their First Amendment rights.