Most people have heard of lobby firms, but few can actually explain what they are. Lobbies are political organizations that meet and negotiate forcefully with politicians for a certain cause. As a result of lobbies, key pieces of legislation have been passed. One key example is the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is the reason there are wheelchair ramps and handicapped parking spaces today. The largest lobby is the AARP, also known as the American Association of Retired Persons. This organization is key in getting laws passed for elderly Americans. Another popular example is the National Rifle Association. This lobby has been prominent in opposing gun reform laws. While the idea of money influencing political laws makes many people cringe, they serve many important purposes.
First of all, lobbies are the most direct link between the population and elected officials. It isn't feasible for thousands of people to call the offices of their local representatives. Most people don't have the time to do so. Other people don't know how to reach their local congressman. Lobbies raise money to pay for people to meet with and influence elected officials. It's easier for people to meet with elected officials when it is their full-time job. These are the people at the head of lobbies.
Furthermore, lobby firms are a perfect example of strength in numbers. Elected officials don't feel any pressure from an isolated person leaving an angry voicemail message. On the other hand, lobbies can bring the power of thousands of people to bear. When thousands of people each donate a few dollars to a lobby, lobby firms have the ability to sway congress. By donating money to fund re-election campaigns, lobbies allow the voices of the people to be heard. Congressmen won't listen to one person. They will heed the power of lobbies.
In addition, lobbies help to educate elected officials on the issues. On average, around 5,000 bills are placed on the desks of congressmen every year. It is unreasonable to expect an elected official to read every one of those bills, let alone understand the national implications of each. On the other hand, lobbies have lots of people at their disposal to read these bills and understand the implications for the country. Lobbies can also research the statistics and come up with facts from the past. They will then attempt to persuade politicians to vote one way or another depending on the interests of their constituents. Lobbying ensures that politicians make informed decisions on every bill that passes before congress.
Ultimately, lobbying is protected by both the 1st Amendment and the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. This is the most prominent example of participatory democracy and is not only legally protected as above, but also necessary for the rights of the people. Consider joining a local lobby today. It may influence the outcome of the next election.