On a cold Thursday, I went to the City Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, wanting to contribute not knowing what to expect I was a bit nervous, however after meeting with the Georgia Shift group I would be lobbying with, I felt welcomed and at ease with introductions and laughs. I was there with other students who were also attending for an assignment at their own school, and just as nervous as I was. We discussed how bills in congress get reviewed, debated, and passed into law so that with this knowledge we could feel comfortable lobbying.
Learning how the capitol interior worked was interesting, it was funny to see the differences between the House and Senate. Both the House and Senate had lines where you could talk to the Senator or Representative of your district, while the House had small white paper sheets to fill out, the Senate had yellow paper sheets made of thicker material, and way larger. This seemingly insignificant difference showcased the striking dynamic between the two houses and how much more important the Senate viewed themselves.
I read the bills to us that we would be lobbying for, first was a bill about how it should be illegal to have your working or driver’s license revoked for not paying back student loans. The second detailed that Georgia should raise the age that you can be tried as an adult from 16 to 18. The significance of lobbying for different bills is to show your representatives that you are actively paying close attention to the bills that get passed and that you want them to know their constituents have an opinion as well. It helps to network around the capitol with other special interest groups that are around, to build connections and collaborate on efforts to lobby. A good example of collaboration would be a lobbying group for planned parenthood, and a pro-choice group lobbying for the same anti-abortion type of bills. Lobbyists are paid by a company or entity to help persuade politicians to vote a certain way. They get a lot of criticism because of the assumption that lobbying is the same as bribery, however, most lobbyists are just like you and in the sense that they want our voices and concerns as the citizens to be heard by Congress, and they work to make sure those are heard. I was honored to be a part of the action, watching the house of representatives debate on bills, and it was not at all what I imagined, it seemed as if no one was listening.
There was a representative making a spring break PowerPoint during a delegate speech about small practices rejecting funding from large healthcare giants. Citizens who have never seen a house debate probably picture diligent, attentive and invested representatives that are fighting tooth and nail for their constituents’ best interest but seeing behind the curtain I realized that Congress even on the state level, is terribly weak. Representatives and senators are much more focused on keeping their seats but not necessarily using the power they possess to get work done. They are far more interested in getting the meetings and debates finished as quick as possible by spending time eating, on their phones, or yes, making PowerPoints.
Constituents can write down their information, the topic they wish to talk about, and the representative or senator they wish to speak with, and hand it to the person who sends the working students to retrieve the desired representative, but the representative or senator can decide whether to meet with the constituent or citizen or not. The job of a lobbyist is to meet with these representatives and sway their voting behavior into the favor of the interest group or corporation they belong to. Lobbyists help democracy because they remind politicians that there is work to be done on the ground level, and keep their heads from swelling in a way by reminding them that they as politicians have a job they promised to fulfill, which is to keep their constituents happy and do what’s going to benefit the people they represent. I’d like to draw on a reading read in class from the article by titled “Congress Is Weak Because It Wants to Be”.
The article brings up a good point about James Madison and his expectation of the legislative branch. James Madison believed the legislative branch of government would exhibit an unquenchable ambition. As he wrote in Federalist 48, it would always be “extending the sphere of its activity and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex.” In Federalist 51, Madison offers this as the reason for the bicameral legislature: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconvenience is to divide the legislature into different branches.” Congress has essentially lost its ambition to serve its people but has kept up the ambition to remain in their seats it seems. Lobbyists are absolutely necessary to try to keep up the drive in making sure Congress on every level serving their constituents. Not every lobbyist is from a big corporation.
The article states that “many members of Congress have come to see themselves as players in a larger political ecosystem the point of which is not legislating or governing but rather engaging in a kind of performative outrage for a partisan audience.” This makes an impact on lobbying as we know it because A lot of lobbyists are grassroots lobbyists, which don’t represent a large business player, but instead small groups of constituents reaching out from their communities further showing how lobbying helps democracy to run a bit more smoothly when connecting the public to the politicians.
Levin, Yuval. “Congress Is Weak Because Its Members Want It to Be Weak.” Commentary,https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/congress-weak-members-want-weak/