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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Recession-proof industry

Momma, don't let your babies grow up to be lobbyists...

Not quite the same flavor as Willie Nelson's ode to cowboys -- and it would be bad advice if Momma wanted her sons and daughters to make good money.

No better proof than the latest Massachusetts lobbying report, which shows the money has flowed like wine on Beacon Hill so far this year -- where the agenda was heavy with discussions about "reform."

The word attracts clients to lobbyists like moths to a flame. Because, as they like to say, politics is a zero-sum game. Someone wins, someone loses. The person with the most money to influence that decision usually comes out on top.

There us nothing inherently wrong with lobbying -- it is the practice of free speech after all. As Nancy Stirling of ML Strategies correctly points out:
“There are so many changes in laws and regulations being made across the board, including in the lobbying disclosure rules themselves; it’s really important for clients to have a guide through the process. That’s what ML Strategies and other lobbying firms offer.’’
The problem is that people without the money to retain people to guide them through the process lose. People like you and me.

The system that has been put into place to conduct the people's business is also a bit unseemly. The practice of politicians holding breakfasts, lunches and dinners in "intimate" settings to schmooze about issues -- and take in checks -- is not really a good thing when it comes to holding that food down.

And no matter how well intentioned the recipients might be, they are only fooling themselves and others if they say practice provides access and not influence. But just how much access do we get without the check?

It doesn't have to be totally one-sided. (Full disclosure: I have not been lobbied for this plug by a regular reader). There's a nice little book called "Lobbying on a Shoestring" that can help guide people through the process in Massachusetts.

And you will note Judy Meredith's name only appears in the One Massachusetts blog and the comments section here and not on the top earners list highlighted in the Globe.

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Blogger Judy Meredith said...

Thanks!! I don't own Lobbying, I adapted an existing lobbying handbook as a fundraiser for Mass Law Reform Institute in 1982 when President whats his name was "reforming" legal services.

Lots of other lobbying tips free at http://www.realclout.org

July 18, 2009 9:44 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Even less of a potential conflict for me!

July 18, 2009 10:18 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Typical lobbying is hardly the practice of "free speech"- it is exactly the opposite: "paid speech". But seriously- except in those (probably rare) cases where a lobbyist actually cares about the issue they're lobbying about, lobbyists are speech-mercenaries, prostitutes of democratic advocacy.

July 18, 2009 8:17 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Daniel, you are correct that it is paid speech. It's an important distinction that I forgot to make, so thanks.

But the Supreme Court confers the same status on both kinds.

July 19, 2009 8:33 AM  

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