What are some lobbyists' activities
Why lobbying is theoretically a good thing - and what has to change in practice
Do you also think lobbying is a bad thing? If so, you are not alone in this. Many, if not most of the people in Germany believe that lobbying harms our democracy. With the term 'lobbyism' they associate large corporations that try to enforce their political interests with unfair means. Corporations that buy the favor of politicians with glittering dinner parties, expensive trips, gifts and generous donations. And all of this behind a closed door. You think - to put it bluntly - of corporations with unscrupulous lobbyists and corrupt politicians. Some of these shady methods may, in part, actually be practiced. And yes, we also think that this is definitely not how decisions should be made in a democracy!
It is a big shame that lobbyism is falling into disrepute as a result of practices of this kind. Because, as we would like to show you in a moment, lobbyism is not a bad thing at all. But on the contrary. Lobbying is good and is an essential part of a functioning democracy. However, it depends on how it is practiced.
Definition of lobbyism
Perhaps some of you are wondering what lobbyism is. Many people don't really know that. The answer is actually quite simple.
In a nutshell, lobbyism is political lobbying. What does it mean exactly?
In politics, for example, laws are passed - sometimes in shorter, sometimes longer processes. Various groups from society and the economy are affected by these laws. Such as business enterprises, industrial associations, trade unions, social associations, churches, associations or groups of individual citizens. The activity of a lobbyist is as follows: He brings the interests of the group he represents to the relevant decision-makers in politics in the legal process. He tries to convince the decision-makers with arguments that it is important to take these interests into account in the legislation.
The theory is that lobbying is a good thing
But to what extent is lobbying a good thing now?
As you can imagine, the various groups affected by a law feel the need to articulate their interests, thoughts and concerns about a proposed law. They want their interests to be heard by politicians and taken into account when the law is drafted. This concern is your right. After all, it is they who are affected by the law.
And vice versa, politicians who are faced with the question of how a law should be designed have an interest in finding out the different views on it. Because they are dealing with complex issues. In order to answer the questions to be decided on the basis of as much information as possible, they depend on the specialist knowledge of experts and information from those affected. Because that is the case, the legislative process even provides for a permanent hearing of those affected or their lobbyists - the keyword here is association hearing and can be found in Section 47 of the “Joint Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries”.
You see, the representation of interests is not only a legitimate, but also an indispensable part of a democracy. The question then, of course, is why lobbyism has such a bad reputation.
In practice, lobbying has a problem
To put it in a nutshell: the problem with lobbying is the imbalance in advocacy. The different groups have unequal means of making their voices heard by politicians.
The large, financially strong corporations and business associations spend millions annually on lobbying activities. They have large, well-organized lobby departments; have the money to have a representative office close to the decision-makers; can hold expensive events to which they invite the important and powerful, etc.
It is obvious that financially strong companies have greater opportunities to gain access to decision-makers in politics than smaller, financially weak companies and organizations. The latter must try to bring their concerns to the decision-makers without having these resources.
And there is another problem: the lack of transparency. In Germany, the lobbyists are not obliged to disclose their activities and their budget. They are not subject to any control. Nobody really knows how to proceed. Hence the suspicion of many people that something uncosher is happening here, something that is happening in secret, and hence the expression of "back-room lobbying".
These are the reasons why the term ‘lobbyism’ in society has predominantly negative connotations. And because lobbyists know this, of course, it is not surprising that they prefer to use terms such as “Public Affairs” or “Government Relations” to describe their departments and prefer to call themselves “communications consultants” rather than “lobbyists”.
Measures to put theory into practice
We have tried to show that the problem is not lobbyism itself, but the current structures and methods. So not the theory, but the current practice.
There are already some efforts against the transparency problem. Organizations such as Transparency International or LobbyControl, for example, are increasingly advocating transparency obligations for lobbyists - interestingly, they have now joined forces with economic actors such as the Association of the Chemical Industry or the German Society for Political Advice, which represents the interests of lobbyists. We are also convinced that the minimum requirement should be transparency. This requirement would be met by the introduction of a binding lobby register, as it already exists in the USA. Such a register would record all interest groups in Germany as well as the amount of their financial resources available for lobbying activities. It would be visible to every citizen at any time.
We at welobby have made it our mission to do something about the problem of unequal opportunities for participation. We want to lobby for citizens and organizations that cannot afford lobbyists, so that their interests are also included in political decision-making. The goal, we believe, should be a balance of political choices. And we want to pursue lobbying that is comprehensible to the public, i.e. transparent, and in which good arguments play the main role.
If you want this kind of lobbying to become a reality, support us now!
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