Lobbying is an honorable profession. In America and perhaps around the world, that simple statement is more likely to be a sarcastic punch line to a bad joke, than a self evident proposition. Low public esteem for lobbyists is hardly a modern phenomenon. The reasons why lobbyists have been reviled throughout history are legion, including the simple, undeniable fact that in some notorious cases lobbyists got their bad reputations the old fashioned way: they earned it. However, more remarkable than the persistent image in the public consciousness of corrupt influence peddlers, is that today, while trust of professional lobbyists is particularly low, the number of lobbyists and the level of lobbying activity continues to rise. Highly touted new lobbying laws and rules have not dampened the demand and need for lobbying services. Instead, greater regulation has actually coincided with a sharp increase in professional lobbying, alongside an increase in related work by professionals with government relations expertise representing clients facing oversight and public investigations. Indeed, an unintended consequence of new lobbying rules, enhanced enforcement, and stricter penalties, is that the once cottage industry of government ethics and lobbying compliance training and counseling is suddenly a booming practice area for Washington law firms. Since the new rules were issued, proliferating seminars and advice columns by practitioners, continuing legal education courses, and compliance training sessions are playing to packed audiences of lobbyists.
This article will appear in an upcoming issue of The Stanford Law and Policy Review.