As someone who was not terribly knowledgeable about lobbying, our session entitled “Truth in Lobbying” with Andrew Smith coupled with prior engaging discussions with Mike Aulgur and Stephanie Kitchen helped me to better understand the key role lobbyists play. For instance, those attached to the Virginia Farm Bureau play an important role in helping farmers throughout the commonwealth get their message across. Thus, lobbyists give farmers a voice, something that is often lacking in many developing countries.
In developing countries that I have lived and worked, formal lobbying does not really exist. Political patronage is the name of the game in many instances. Thus, lobbying in my mind has always been suspect, amounting to nothing more than a form of “legal corruption” for lack of a better phrase. Like any profession though (some more than others), there are good actors and bad actors. And as Andrew pointed out, a few bad apples in the lobbying business gives the profession a bad name. Of course, there are those lobbyists that work for the highest bidder and don’t necessarily care about the issue at hand.
Apart from better understanding lobbying as a whole, the key takeaway for me is the building of relationships by telling your story. If someone is willing to listen to your story, that is a moral victory in itself but hopefully, s/he will take note and do something, anything as long as the people are the winners when the hammer falls.