Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Washington Post writer David Segal once observed, "[f]or most Americans the words 'Washington lobbyist' have roughly the same cachet as, say, 'deadbeat dad."" Both lawmakers and the public regard lobbying as an unsavory part of the political process. Much of this perception stems from the vast sums of money spent each year on lobbying activity. For example, in the first half of 2004 alone, mortgage funding companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reported spending over $11 million on lobbying activities, General Electric spent $8.5 million, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $20.1 million-and these were only three of the 600 groups that spent more than a quarter of a million dollars in that six-month period. The amount spent just on direct lobbying, where a lobbyist communicates directly with officials rather than pursuing other persuasive tactics, is estimated at almost $2 billion a year.

The belief that lobbying is more about connections and favors than sound policymaking is also not without support and further contributes to the lobbying industry's poor reputation. Although the "legislator-turned-lobbyist" was not viewed favorably thirty years ago, members of Congress now frequently move into the lobbying arena when they retire or lose re-election bids. Even little-known members are able to earn over $300,000 as lobbyists in their first year out of Congress. Critics claim that the flood of legislators into lobbying heightens the perception that lobbyists use personal contacts to take home big paychecks, and that taxpayers pay the price in the end.