SID SALTER:Defining ‘lobbyist’ isn’t easy thing

I wrote last week about the compensation of the state’s top 10 lobbyists and broadly about the fact that lobbying is now a $22.1 million enterprise in Mississippi. That’s something the taxpayers should pay attention to as public policy is made. So what is a lobbyist?
The answer to that question depend entirely upon whom one asks, according to Hillwatch, Inc., a lobbying firm in Washington. Its staff keeps a collection of commentary on lobbying on the firm’s Web site.
Napoleon said of lobbyists: “Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.” Closer to home and our time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt once told a business delegation that came to lobby him on an issue: “Okay, you’ve convinced me. Now go out there and bring pressure on me.”
Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey was credited with this nugget: “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.” But perhaps the best two observation on lobbying came from an anonymous source, who observed: “As a supplicant to government, you cannot afford to bull …! Government reserves that right for itself.”
From the politician’s viewpoint, another anonymous wag offered this biting bit of clarity: “If you can’t drink a lobbyist’s whiskey, take his money, sleep with his women and still vote against him in the morning, you don’t belong in politics.” Not everyone has that sleazy view of the process, as evidenced by this quote attributed to the Rev. Billy Graham: “I just want to lobby for God.”
It’s all in the game
Lobbying is an integral part of the public policy process. But anyone who doesn’t watch the lobbying process with a wary eye and who doesn’t appreciate the stakes of the game is destined for hurt feelings down the road. Consider this pithy, cynical quote: “Whenever I go down to Washington and meet with the Securities and Exchange Commission and complain to them that the industry is either over regulated or the burdens are too great they all start to roll their eyes, just like all of our children do when we talk about the good old days.”
Who said that? Disgraced Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff – back in the days before his scandal was revealed.

Contact syndicated columnist Sid Salter at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail ssalter@clarionledger.com.

 

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