How Pressure Groups And Lobbying Violate The Principle Of Political Equality

Lobbying is the act of influencing the actions, decisions, and policies of members or legislators of regulatory bodies or political movements. It is practiced by many kinds of individuals, associations, interest groups, corporations or government officials. Professional lobbyists refer to those individuals whose business is to influence the legislation, policies and government decisions for an individual or a group for a pay. The top lobbyist in Maryland according to 2011 statistics was Gerard E Evans who earned $1.2 million. Some of the prominent and influential lobby groups in American politics are National Association of Realtors, National Rifle Association and AARP. Lobbying could also be done voluntarily by nonprofit organizations or interested individuals as part of their work. James Thurber (analyst) estimated that there were almost a hundred thousand professional lobbyists who cumulatively earn close to $9 billion per year. On the other hand, pressure groups are associations created by individuals with the same interests on public policy. These advocacy groups have played and continue to play significant roles in the development of socio-political systems to channel the citizen grievances to the administrators. However, from a general perspective, the image of these lobbyists and the interest groups to the public is harmful because they are termed as 'hired guns' that barely have principles. They are associated with scandals which severely taints their professionalism image. An excellent example of the scandal case was that of Jack Abramoff, Randy Cunningham, and Bob Ney among others which involved bribery and lobbying fraud. The morals and ethics for lobbying are somewhat complicated since the lobbyists can shape their opinions in a manner that favor specific individuals or private parties. An agent could prioritize interests of a client leaving out the public benefits leading to agent misguidance or deliberate failure. An excellent example of such failure is where the government agents' locks out the interests of the public consequentially because of special interests lobbying which only benefits the agent. The poor publicity can significantly tarnish lobbying as a profession.

Political equality relates how the same objects (people) differ regarding rights and resources. The extent of participation in making governmental decisions and other activities is considered to be political equality among the citizens. The foundation of any democracy is equal consideration of all the interest of all the citizens (Grant 2001). These interests are based on the right to vote, freedom of speech and equality of all the citizens before the law. Political inequality refers to that situation when certain individuals or groups have much higher influence over making political decisions which lead to unequal benefits. This undermines the aspect of democracy which states that all the citizens’ interest and political decisions should equally be considered regardless of their status. Interest groups and lobbyists could negatively influence the political opinions and conclusions of a public leading to inequality of rights as stated above (Byrne 1996). The primary goal of a lobbyist is to earn money hence may create policies which only benefit a small group of people contrary to the common interests of the entire public. If not carefully practiced, lobbying is a potential reason for conflicting interests, and this is why it is generally viewed as an ill activity in the public sphere.

Lobbying has a reputation of unforthcoming and a fatalistic factor to the Democracy of any state. It is associated with criticism of damaging the democratic system due to imbalances in decision making. In a broad definition, lobbying is a dominant influence on political decisions through an interested agent. Lobbying is carried out by a lobby group which is not democratically elected and offers outside influence to elected politicians. The factors that characterize a lobby group are; private status, political interest and a certain amount of organization. The examples of lobby groups could be trade unions, professional associations, employer’s association, and companies. For the influence to be termed lobbying, it must be intentional, communicated and targeted to executive agents and or legislative bodies. In American politics, lobbying is considered as the exchange of information through lobby institutions (Klüver 2013). It is critical to understand that lobbying is organized in a manner that it can result in some influence be it politicians or the general public, therefore, a group without an organization could be incapable of influencing any party.

The second aspect of lobbying is the exchange of technical information to create influence on politicians. Lobbyists can manipulate the thinking and position of politicians by giving them a general opinion from a different perspective, and the politicians have the ground to make the decision. It is important to note that the lobby groups do not directly influence the decisions of the politicians but uses the policies to affect them. If the lobbyist tries to change the politicians, it could only be for personal gains which are considered illegal. The main concern of lobbying by the public is that it can tarnish the authenticity of democratic legitimacy by overpowering some politicians than the others is aspects of decision making and representation inequality (Garner 1993).The imbalance in decision making leads to disadvantages of minority groups such as workers, consumers and or other minor interested groups. This leads to a problematic democracy because, injustice, we expect everyone regardless of political status, race, financial strength or else position in government to be treated equally. Everyone is a subject to equal representation with no regard to power or money. Failure to represent some citizens in the administration deprives of their right to participate in everyday activities like voting and amending essential policies (Richardson 2000). In this case, a representative is only bound to make decisions concerning public interests and not for personal gain. The other reason why representation inequality is considered problematic to the democracy is that it obstructs the primary justification of the fundamental rationale for the government. With this, I mean that the government gets justification from the public supremacy and it should under this base. If the lobbyists and the politicians interfere with the democracy inequality, whenever a specific powerful group exerts more pressure to the other, it means there is a conflict to the jurisdiction of the people. It is clear that everyone has the right to be represented but to a certain extent, not too much and not too little.

As aforementioned, lobbying could be termed unauthentic if it is associated with cases of corruption or imbalanced decision making. The accusation of European parliament was that lobby groups practiced immoral activities such as bribery and blackmail. According to my opinion, this cannot be termed as lobbying it is preferably a case of personal corruption. Personal corruption occurs whenever a lobbyist tries to influence a political actor rather than affecting the policies. The driving motive here is personal interest gain. However, if the public system is partisan in favor of a group’s interest, the democratic credibility is undermined. Lobbying leads to external influence from a non-democratic party to a democratically elected party, and it is therefore clear that its focus should target the public interests and not the personal gains for the politician. Any form of bribing, blackmailing or bullying from a lobby group sways it away from its primary objectives.

The next issue which is caused by lobbying is governmental secrecy. The most important pillar of a stable democracy is transparency. As earlier discussed, openness and transparency are critical to a functional democracy. The citizens should be aware of whatever activities that are running in the government they are subject to. If lobbying is secretly done, it will constitute a problematic democracy. If privately done, it could lead to one side lobbying; this means that the government only absorbs influences from only one interest group which could either be biased or having inaccurate information. The citizens make political decisions before the information presented to them so if the lobbying is practiced behind closed doors; the public is bound to make wrong and uninformed decisions on what, who and why to vote.

The other ill related to lobbying is a revolving door. This refers to the fact that many politicians join and work for the lobby firms immediately after they retire. This number of these cases has risen over the recent past in the United States. It is a situation whereby a politician automatically gets a job in a public affairs agency by cooperating to the interest of that agency (Monaghan 1997). Lobby companies could make deals or promise to attach the politicians to particular positions on condition of making specific political decisions which only favors the firm’s interests. In both scenarios, this is a case of personal gain because the politician doesn't consider the interests of the entire public. His decisions are primarily based on own interests; a remunerative job after the political career. The second negative aspect of secrecy is niche lobbying without counter-lobbying. Lobbying often occurs in niches with little or barely any involvement of the public; therefore, politicians can't make a solid decision with information from all sources and undermines the democracy.

Pressure groups rely on the membership size strength and expertise of their members and the financial resources. The groups primarily influence the public policy by campaign fundraising, lobbying, drawing legislation and attesting during the congressional hearings. Lobbying can either be an insider strategy which involves contacting government officials or the outside approach which consists in collecting public opinions in favor of an individual or a group. These interest groups could become too robust; they could raise a lot of money that would increase their influence by spreading their message easily than those with little resources. This means that the signal of those with fewer resources would be poorly distributed. The powerful pressure groups could, therefore, take an unfair advantage over weaker pressure groups to convey an exaggerated, inaccurate and false message to the public.

I support the prohibition of pressure groups and lobbying because, from the preceding discussion, it has clearly been shown how negative lobbying can affect the democracy of a nation. In a closer look, lobbying involves exchanging information between the different lobby and interest groups in a bid to influence the politicians through changing the public policies. It has been taken to be a business and a source of money. Lobbying is associated with many ills such as lack of transparency; the general public is locked out of the free activities which they should participate in. The other reason is; they force the general public to make unclear and uninformed decisions whenever they are participating in the political processes. The financially strong pressure groups tend to disrupt the standard way of advising the public. They could supposedly pass exaggerated, inaccurate and wrong information to misguide the people. There could be forces from the above coaxing them to do so, and as a result, the misguided population is bound to make wrong decisions. The other reason why I strongly support the prohibition of lobbying and pressure groups is under-representation of the public in the administrative and executive positions. The representation inequality causes faulty democratic system. The citizens are deprived of the right to be represented meaning that their grievances cannot be conveyed in good time. Lastly, these pressure groups bear the motives of bribes, blackmail, and bullying. Bribes or personal corruption could be triggered by politicians with the purpose of personal gain and not the interest of the public. I hereby support the prohibition of these lobbying and pressure groups.


  • Byrne, P., 1996. The politics of the women's movement. Parliamentary Affairs, 49(1), pp.55- 71.
  • Cohen-Eliya, M. and Hammer, Y., 2010. Nontransparent lobbying as a collective failure. Wm. & Mary Poly Rev., 2, p.265.
  • Garner, R., 1993. Political animals: A survey of the animal protection movement in Britain. Parliamentary Affairs, 46(3), pp.333-353.
  • Grant, W., 2001. Pressure politics: From ‘insider’politics to direct action?. Parliamentary Affairs, 54(2), pp.337-348.
  • Klüver, H., 2013. Lobbying in the European Union: interest groups, lobbying coalitions, and policy change. Oxford University Press.
  • J.E. and Schwalbe, C.B., 2016. How business lobby networks shaped the US Freedom of Information Act: An examination of 60 years of congressional testimony. Government Information Quarterly, 33(3), pp.404-416.
  • Monaghan, R., 1997. Animal rights and violent protest. Terrorism and Political Violence, 9(4), pp.106- 116.
  • Pietrzyk, D.I., 2003. Democracy or civil society?. Politics, 23(1), pp.38-45.
  • Richardson, J., 2000. Government, interest groups and policy change. Political studies, 48(5), pp.1006- 1025.
16 December 2021
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