The death of lobbyists as we know them? Now the paid-for drive-by ambush?
For decades and decades, big corporations and very wealthy people paid lots of big money to lobbyists to stroll Capitol Hill and to promote all sorts of things -- from their companies to their products to their ideology to even themselves. I thought the excessive money spent on lobbyists in Washington was horrible and unfair. I thought it particularly unfair to small businesses -- like in my hometown -- who simply could not afford an expensive lobbyist to wine and dine some politician in order to get some tax advantage or some friendly targeted business regulation. It did not make for a level playing field. I like level playing fields.
And now? I have a modified view and I surprise myself on this.
In recent years things have changed, the lobbying business is changing -- and a bit to our detriment, as it often promotes indecency and brings out the worst in people. Big money that went to lobbyists to promote a tax regulation or an idea or ideology is now often paid to websites or to bloggers to blog (and often anonymously). Websites and bloggers have some secret, and some not-so-secret benefactors.
And worse? Many have taken the cue from political campaigns where negative ads are known to work. The mission by some can be simply character assassination (not just give my company a tax break!) Some unfairly trash products, ideas, projects, bills, laws etc. Politicians are particularly sensitive and they know what is being said on the internet. Regrettably no one objects to a trashing if he agrees with the character assassination. Instead it draws a nod or a laugh in agreement.
Much junk -- and even poison -- is put on the internet where it lasts forever. And besides it lasting forever, there is always the dope (or even mean person) who reads it, adopts it, and then puts it on his or her website. Of course, the more something is repeated, the more likely it will be believed -- whether it be true or false or a smear. Junk and falsehoods and character assassinations metastasize on the internet. In fact, that is the goal for some.
Think about it. You can get really ugly, be really nasty, and you don't have to pay for airline tickets or hotels in DC. A bargain, right? I suppose ... if you are for sale or have convinced yourself somehow that being vicious is a virtue. We have a lot of that.
At least with lobbyists, you know who they are or you can find out. They have to register. Plus, you can go to Capitol Hill and see them walking around -- or you can get a lunch reservation in some fancy DC restaurant and see them. We know who they are, and we know where they go. But this anonymous business on the internet, coupled with its no rules, is very different.
I am certainly not suggesting we put the brakes on the First Amendment (I have actually fought in Court for the First Amendment). I am merely lamenting how good things (yes, the internet is great as it is a wonderful research tool) can some times bring out the worst in some of us.
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