Citizens, unite! (And hire or become a lobbyist.) Two news stories this week have reminded us that lobbying isn’t just the purview of white-shoe law and lobbying firms. Joe six-pack, you too can lobby for change.
Roll Call (subscription required) ran a story on Tuesday detailing the efforts of Florida businessman Earl Kiser, 81, to create American People’s Voice, a web-based project that will help citizens to better lobby their members. According to their “About Us” page, American People’s Voice “is a tool for citizens to make the critical connections with lawmakers and no longer suffer as absentee stakeholders in the business, conduct and legislation of the United States of America.” In other words, it’s a tool for citizens to become little “L” lobbyists.
Of course, individuals can simply hire lobbyists, too. On Tuesday, ABCNews.com ran a story about citizens who have hired lobbyists to push legislation on issues relevant to them. Among them is Maureen Ebel, a retired nurse who lost her savings in Madoff’s pyramid scheme, and who is represented pro-bono by New York lawyer Helen Davis Chaitman. According to the ABC story, Chaitman, who also lost her savings in Madoff’s scam, said she’s met with over 75 lawmakers on issues relevant to Madoff’s victims.
These stories serve as a reminder that the anti-lobbying messages we sometimes hear fail to mention that the same government protections allowing the lobbying industry to exist also give individual citizens the right to affect change by influencing their government representatives. It’s a right we should all work to protect, maybe even by hiring or becoming a lobbyist.