October 24, 2007
Who are these people?
If you read Part One of our Youth Guide to Politics you heard me drop “the L-word” because many organizations, companies, and unions have lobbyists and political action committees (PACs) and use them to get the laws they want passed. But Yukon High School American history and government teacher Ed Brown says he doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about lobbyists. “We don’t get into specifics,” he said. Instead they just “talk about what they do and their function, how they have to register. We talked a little about who they work for but in the broad sense–that they work for some ideology groups or organizations.” Brown said like anything they discuss in his 11th and 12th grade classes some students were interested and others were not. Some know about [Jack] Abramoff, and some don’t.
If you grew up watching episodes like this on The West Wing or you ever caught an episode of K-Street on HBO, then you have a pretty good idea of what these mysterious news grabbers called “lobbyists” do. But let’s pretend you’re not a politiholic and you’re interested in more.
Lobbyists represent the interests of specific groups on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country. They have many different forms of services, including watching legislation that is of interest to your org or company, drafting legislation, finding elected officials to sponsor a bill and the tricky one–making sure the bill that you want to pass sails through.
To get a better picture, watch a clip from the short-lived HBO series K-Street. The real K Street is a city block in Washington, D.C., where most of the lobbying firms are located. This scene is a good example of a lobbyist in action talking about pirating music:
In our world, the capitol is like your high school, which would make teachers like the members of Congress–we’ll call the speaker the principal. How do you get the teachers and the principal to do what you want? You lobby them, right? So you have a lot of different people who “lobby” in your school. You’ve got the student council, who is like the go-between–they lobby on behalf of the student body to the teachers and administration. Then you’ve got the suck-up brown-nosers who can work everyone over. Congress is pretty much the same.