Nontransparent Lobbying as a Democratic Failure

Note from the Digital Editor: In order to highlight the high-level of research and scholarship from the authors who have published in the William & Mary Policy Review’s peer-reviewed print journal, we have reproduced the abstracts from Volume 2, Issue 2 along with a link to an electronic copy of the full form of the piece.

(Image by NBC News) 

Despite its negative reputation, lobbying is an important vehicle for ensuring citizen participation in the democratic process, allowing for a vibrant and participatory democracy. This article supports the pluralistic theory of democracy, which views democracy as an arena in which interest groups struggle to attain the utmost realization of their interests. Yet social scientists have repeatedly shown that the modus operandi of lobbyists and interest groups casts a heavy shadow over the pluralistic vision of a vibrant and participatory democracy, and that interest groups‘ lobbying often comes at the expense of the majority. The article identifies three flaws in the democratic process resulting from lobbying: personal corruption (the ―revolving door‖ phenomenon and the dependence of representatives on campaign financing); unequal power of influence resulting in the distortion of the public agenda; and niche lobbying without competitive counterlobbying. Concentrating on the problem of lack of competition, we suggest that the existing transparency requirements of the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act do not attain the goal of creating the type of rivalry that the pluralistic conception seeks to advance. We propose to expand the scope of transparency requirements in the law by requiring lobbyists to publish online all written material transmitted to politicians and to list all areas of lobbying activity. This requirement, we believe, will reduce monitoring costs for rival interest groups and is likely to increase competitive lobbying.

Find the full version of this article in PDF form here.

Moshe Cohen-Eliya is Dean at School of Law, Academic Center of Law and Business. Yoav Hammer is Lecturer at School of Law, Academic Center of Law and Business.

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