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1891 cartoon about lobbying an American assemblyman The Wasp 1891-03-14 cover.jpg
1891 cartoon about lobbying an American assemblyman
Gift offered by tobacco industry lobbyists to Dutch politician Kartika Liotard in September 2013 Tabakslobby.jpg
Gift offered by tobacco industry lobbyists to Dutch politician Kartika Liotard in September 2013

In politics, lobbying, persuasion, or interest representation is the act of lawfully attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of government officials, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying, which usually involves direct, face-to-face contact, is done by many types of people, associations and organized groups, including individuals in the private sector, corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or advocacy groups (interest groups). Lobbyists may be among a legislator's constituencies, meaning a voter or bloc of voters within their electoral district; they may engage in lobbying as a business. Professional lobbyists are people whose business is trying to influence legislation, regulation, or other government decisions, actions, or policies on behalf of a group or individual who hires them. Individuals and nonprofit organizations can also lobby as an act of volunteering or as a small part of their normal job. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying that has become influential.


The ethics and morals involved with legally bribing or lobbying or influence peddling are complicated. Lobbying can, at times, be spoken of with contempt, when the implication is that people with inordinate socioeconomic power are corrupting the law in order to serve their own interests. When people who have a duty to act on behalf of others, such as elected officials with a duty to serve their constituents' interests or more broadly the public good, can benefit by shaping the law to serve the interests of some private parties, a conflict of interest exists. Many critiques of lobbying point to the potential for conflicts of interest to lead to agent misdirection or the intentional failure of an agent with a duty to serve an employer, client, or constituent to perform those duties. The failure of government officials to serve the public interest as a consequence of lobbying by special interests who provide benefits to the official is an example of agent misdirection. [1] That is why lobbying is seen as one of the causes of a democratic deficit. [2]


In a report carried by the BBC, an OED lexicographer has shown that "lobbying" finds its roots in the gathering of Members of Parliament and peers in the hallways ("lobbies") of the UK Houses of Parliament before and after parliamentary debates where members of the public can meet their representatives. [3]

One story held that the term originated at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, where it was supposedly used by President Ulysses S. Grant to describe the political advocates who frequented the hotel's lobby to access Grant—who was often there in the evenings to enjoy a cigar and brandy—and then tried to buy the president drinks in an attempt to influence his political decisions. [4] Although the term may have gained more widespread currency in Washington, D.C. by virtue of this practice during the Grant Administration, the OED cites numerous documented uses of the word well before Grant's presidency, including use in Pennsylvania as early as 1808. [4]

The term "lobbying" also appeared in print as early as 1820: [5]

Other letters from Washington affirm, that members of the Senate, when the compromise question was to be taken in the House, were not only "lobbying about the Representatives' Chamber" but also active in endeavoring to intimidate certain weak representatives by insulting threats to dissolve the Union.

April 1, 1820

Dictionary definitions:


Governments often[ quantify ] define and regulate organized group lobbying [9] [10] [11] [12] as part of laws to prevent political corruption and by establishing transparency about possible influences by public lobby registers.

Lobby groups may concentrate their efforts on the legislatures, where laws are created, but may also use the judicial branch to advance their causes. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for example, filed suits in state and federal courts in the 1950s to challenge segregation laws. Their efforts resulted in the Supreme Court declaring such laws unconstitutional.

Lobbyists may use a legal device known as amicus curiae (literally: "friend of the court") briefs to try to influence court cases. Briefs are written documents filed with a court, typically by parties to a lawsuit. Amici curiae briefs are briefs filed by people or groups who are not parties to a suit. These briefs are entered into the court records, and give additional background on the matter being decided upon. Advocacy groups use these briefs both to share their expertise and to promote their positions.

The lobbying industry is affected by the revolving door concept, a movement of personnel between roles as legislators and regulators and roles in the industries affected by legislation and regulation, as the main asset for a lobbyist is contacts with and influence on government officials.[ citation needed ] This climate is attractive for ex-government officials.[ citation needed ] It can also mean substantial monetary rewards for lobbying firms, and government projects and contracts worth in the hundreds of millions for those they represent. [13] [14]

The international standards for the regulation of lobbying were introduced at four international organizations and supranational associations: 1) the European Union; 2) the Council of Europe; 3) the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; 4) the Commonwealth of Independent States. [15]


In 2013, the director general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, illustrated the methods used in lobbying against public health: [16]

Efforts to prevent noncommunicable diseases go against the business interests of powerful economic operators. In my view, this is one of the biggest challenges facing health promotion. [...] it is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics. Research has documented these tactics well. They include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt. Tactics also include gifts, grants, and contributions to worthy causes that cast these industries as respectable corporate citizens in the eyes of politicians and the public. They include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice. This is formidable opposition. [...] When industry is involved in policy-making, rest assured that the most effective control measures will be downplayed or left out entirely. This, too, is well documented, and dangerous. In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests.


In pre-modern political systems, royal courts provided incidental opportunities for gaining the ear of monarchs and their councillors. Nowadays, lobbying has taken a more drastic position as big corporations pressure politicians to help them gain more benefit. Lobbying has become a big part of the world economy as big companies corrupt laws and regulations. [17]

Lobbying by country


Over the past twenty years, lobbying in Australia has grown from a small industry of a few hundred employees to a multi-billion dollar per year industry. What was once the preserve of big multinational companies and at a more local level (property developers, for example Urban Taskforce Australia) has morphed into an industry that employs more than 10,000 people and represents every facet of human endeavour. [18]

Public lobbyist registers

A register of federal lobbyists is kept by the Australian Government and is accessible to the public via its website. [19] Similar registers for State government lobbyists were introduced between 2007 and 2009 around Australia. Since April 2007 in Western Australia, only lobbyists listed on the state's register are allowed to contact a government representative for the purpose of lobbying. [20] Similar rules have applied in Tasmania since 1 September 2009 [21] and in South Australia and Victoria since 1 December 2009. [22] [23]

European Union

Wiertzstraat in Brussels. This 'lobby tree' in front of the main entrance of the European Parliament was planted in 2001 at the initiative of SEAP, the professional organization of lobbyists. EP-BrusselWiertzstraat-boom.jpg
Wiertzstraat in Brussels. This 'lobby tree' in front of the main entrance of the European Parliament was planted in 2001 at the initiative of SEAP, the professional organization of lobbyists.

The first step towards specialized regulation of lobbying in the European Union was a Written Question tabled by Alman Metten, in 1989. In 1991, Marc Galle, Chairman of the Committee on the Rules of Procedure, the Verification of Credentials and Immunities, was appointed to submit proposals for a Code of conduct and a register of lobbyists. Today lobbying in the European Union is an integral and important part of decision-making in the EU. From year to year lobbying regulation in the EU is constantly improving and the number of lobbyists increases. [24]

In 2003 there were around 15,000 lobbyists (consultants, lawyers, associations, corporations, NGOs etc.) in Brussels seeking to influence the EU's legislation. Some 2,600 special interest groups had a permanent office in Brussels. Their distribution was roughly as follows: European trade federations (32%), consultants (20%), companies (13%), NGOs (11%), national associations (10%), regional representations (6%), international organizations (5%) and think tanks (1%), (Lehmann, 2003, pp iii). [25] [26] In addition to this, lobby organisations sometimes hire former EU employees (a phenomenon known as the revolving door) who possess inside knowledge of the EU institutions and policy process [27] A report by Transparency International EU published in January 2017 analysed the career paths of former EU officials and found that 30% of Members of the European Parliament who left politics went to work for organisations on the EU lobby register after their mandate and approximately one third of Commissioners serving under Barroso took jobs in the private sector after their mandate, including for Uber, ArcelorMittal, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. These potential conflicts of interest could be avoided if a stronger ethics framework were established at the EU level, including an independent ethics body and longer cooling-off periods for MEPs. [27]

In the wake of the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal in Washington D.C. and the massive impact this had on the lobbying scene in the United States, the rules for lobbying in the EU—which until now consisted of only a non-binding code of conduct—may also be tightened. [28]

Eventually, on 31 January 2019 the European Parliament adopted binding rules on lobby transparency. Amending its Rules of Procedure, the Parliament stipulated that MEPs involved in drafting and negotiating legislation must publish online their meetings with lobbyists. [29] The amendment says that “rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs or committee chairs shall, for each report, publish online all scheduled meetings with interest representatives falling under the scope of the Transparency Register”-database of the EU. [30]


There is currently no regulation at all for lobbying activities in France. There is no regulated access to the French institutions and no register specific to France, but there is one for the European Union [31] where French lobbyists can register themselves. [32] For example, the internal rule of the National Assembly (art. 23 and 79) forbids members of Parliament to be linked with a particular interest[ definition needed ]. Also, there is no rule at all for consultation of interest groups by the Parliament and the Government. Nevertheless, a recent parliamentary initiative[ which? ] (motion for a resolution) has been launched by several MPs[ who? ] so as to establish a register for representatives of interest groups and lobbyists who intend to lobby the MPs. [33]


A 2016 study found evidence of significant indirect lobbying of then-PM Silvio Berlusconi through business proxies. [34] The authors document a significant pro-Mediaset (the mass media company founded and controlled by Berlusconi) bias in the allocation of advertising spending during Berlusconi's political tenure, in particular for companies operating in more regulated sectors. [34]

United Kingdom

United States

K Street NW at 19th Street in Washington D.C., part of downtown Washington's maze of high-powered "K Street lobbyist" and law firm office buildings. K Street NW at 19th Street.jpg
K Street NW at 19th Street in Washington D.C., part of downtown Washington's maze of high-powered "K Street lobbyist" and law firm office buildings.

Lobbying in the United States describes paid activity in which special interests hire professional advocates to argue for specific legislation in decision-making bodies, such as the United States Congress. Some lobbyists are now using social media to reduce the cost of traditional campaigns, and to more precisely target public officials with political messages. [35]

A 2011 study of the 50 firms that spent the most on lobbying relative to their assets compared their financial performance against that of the S&P 500, and concluded that spending on lobbying was a "spectacular investment" yielding "blistering" returns comparable to a high-flying hedge fund, even despite the financial downturn. [36] A 2011 meta-analysis of previous research findings found a positive correlation between corporate political activity and firm performance. [37] A 2009 study found that lobbying brought a return on investment of as much as 22,000% in some cases. [38] Major American corporations spent $345 million lobbying for just three pro-immigration bills between 2006 and 2008. [39]

Foreign-funded lobbying efforts include those of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and China lobbies. In 2010 alone, foreign governments spent approximately $460 million on lobbying members of Congress and government officials. [40]

A study from the Kellogg School of Management found that political donations by corporations do not increase shareholder value. [41] [ why? ]

Wall Street spent a record $2 billion trying to influence the 2016 United States presidential election. [42] [43]

Other countries

See also

Related Research Articles

Freedom of information laws allow access by the general public to data held by national governments and, where applicable, by state and local governments. The emergence of freedom of information legislation was a response to increasing dissatisfaction with the secrecy surrounding government policy development and decision making. In recent years Access to Information Act has also been used. They establish a "right-to-know" legal process by which requests may be made for government-held information, to be received freely or at minimal cost, barring standard exceptions. Also variously referred to as open records, or sunshine laws, governments are typically bound by a duty to publish and promote openness. In many countries there are constitutional guarantees for the right of access to information, but these are usually unused if specific support legislation does not exist. Additionally, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 has a target to ensure public access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms as a means to ensure accountable, inclusive and just institutions.


Comitology in the European Union refers to a process by which EU law is implemented, modified or adjusted and takes place within "comitology committees" chaired by the European Commission. The official term for the process is committee procedure. Comitology committees are part of the EU's broader system of committees that assist in the making, adoption, and implementation of EU laws. The comitology system was reconfigured by the Lisbon Treaty which introduced the current Articles 290 and 291 TFEU. Whereas Article 291 TFEU provides for a continuation of implementation of EU law through comitology, Article 290 TFEU introduced the delegated act which is now used to amend or supplement EU legislation, whereas beforehand this was also done through comitology. However, pursuant to the EU institutions' 2016 Common Understanding on Delegated Acts, comitology has been re-introduced for the adoption of delegated acts under Article 290 TFEU.

Diana Wallis British politician

Diana Paulette Wallis, is a British former Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Yorkshire and the Humber. Wallis was first elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2004 and in 2009. She resigned her seat in January 2012 and went on to pursue an extensive array of academic, legal and mediation-related activities.

Lobbying in the United States National lobbying overview

Lobbying in the United States describes paid activity in which special interest groups hire well-connected professional advocates, often lawyers, to argue for specific legislation in decision-making bodies such as the United States Congress. It is a highly controversial phenomenon, often seen in a negative light by journalists and the American public, with some critics describing it as a legal form of bribery or influence peddling or extortion. While lobbying is subject to extensive and often complex rules which, if not followed, can lead to penalties including jail, the activity of lobbying has been interpreted by court rulings as constitutionally protected free speech and a way to petition the government for the redress of grievances, two of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Since the 1970s, lobbying activity has grown immensely in the United States in terms of the numbers of lobbyists and the size of lobbying budgets, and has become the focus of much criticism of American governance.

Fossil fuels lobby

"Fossil fuels lobby" is a term used to label the paid representatives of large fossil fuel and aviation corporations who attempt to influence governmental policy. Big Oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total S.A., Chevron Corporation, and ConocoPhillips are among the largest corporations associated with the fossil fuels lobby.

The Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is a non-profit research and campaign group whose declared aim is to "expose any effects of corporate lobbying on EU policy making". It is based in Brussels.

In politics, the "revolving door" is a movement of personnel between roles as legislators and regulators, on one hand, and members of the industries affected by the legislation and regulation, on the other. It has also been used to refer to the constant switching and ousting of political leaders from offices such as the Prime Minister of Australia and Japan.

Lobbying in the United Kingdom plays a significant role in the formation of legislation and a wide variety of commercial organisations, lobby groups "lobby" for particular policies and decisions by Parliament and other political organs at national, regional and local levels.

The Telecoms Package was the review of the European Union Telecommunications Framework from 2007 – 2009. The objective of the review was to update the EU Telecoms Framework of 2002 and to create a common set of regulations for the telecoms industry across all 27 EU member states. The review consisted of a package of directives addressing the regulation of service provision, access, interconnection, users' contractual rights and users' privacy, as well as a regulation creating a new European regulatory body (BEREC).

Advocacy groups, also known as special interest groups, use various forms of advocacy in order to influence public opinion and ultimately policy. They play an important role in the development of political and social systems.

Copyright for Creativity - A Declaration for Europe issued on 5 May 2010, is intended as a statement of how copyright policy could be constructed in the Internet Age. It comes against the background of political debate within Europe to rethink copyright in an era where the use of digital content without paying fees to the creators is part of the business model for some of the largest global internet platforms. Interests of content creators and online platform providers collide. The declaration has been written by a group from political party "European People's Party (EPP)" The Declaration focuses on both the exclusive rights and the limitations and exceptions to existing copyright rulings and standards.

Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) is the European branch of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International (FOEI). It includes 33 national organizations and thousands of local groups.

Grassroots lobbying is lobbying with the intention of reaching the legislature and making a difference in the decision-making process. Grassroots lobbying is an approach that separates itself from direct lobbying through the act of asking the general public to contact legislators and government officials concerning the issue at hand, as opposed to conveying the message to the legislators directly. Companies, associations and citizens are increasingly partaking in grassroots lobbying as an attempt to influence a change in legislation.

Direct lobbying in the United States are methods used by lobbyists to influence United States legislative bodies. Interest groups from many sectors spend billions of dollars on lobbying.

History of lobbying in the United States

The history of lobbying in the United States is a chronicle of the rise of paid advocacy generally by special interests seeking favor in lawmaking bodies such as the United States Congress. Lobbying has usually been understood as activity by paid professionals to try to influence key legislators and executives, which is different from the right for an individual to petition the government. It has been around since the early days of the Republic, and affects every level of government from local municipal authorities to the federal government in Washington. In the nineteenth century, lobbying was mostly conducted at the state level, but in the twentieth century, there has been a marked rise in activity, particularly at the federal level in the past thirty years. While lobbying has generally been marked by controversy, there have been numerous court rulings protecting lobbying as free speech. At the same time, the courts have made no final ruling on whether the petition clause of the US Constitution covers lobbying.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency is a UK-based organisation formed in September 2007 and formally launched in January 2008 and concerned with the influence of lobbying on government decision-making.

A Lobby Registry, also named Lobbyist Registry, Register for Lobby Transparency or Registry of Lobbyists is a public database, in which information about lobbying actors and key data about their actions can be accessed.

The European Crowdfunding Network AISBL (ECN), is a professional network promoting adequate transparency, (self) regulation and governance while offering a combined voice in policy discussion and public opinion building. ECN was founded in 2011 as an interest group and formally incorporated as an international not-for-profit organisation in Brussels, Belgium in 2013. It aims at innovating, representing, promoting and protecting the European crowdfunding industry as a key aspect of innovation within alternative finance and financial technology, as a funding mechanism for small and medium-sized enterprises and innovative projects. The Founding Chairman was Oliver Gajda.

European Union lobbying

Lobbying in the European Union, also referred to officially as European interest representation, is the activity of representatives of diverse interest groups or lobbies who attempt to influence the executive and legislative authorities of the European Union through public relations or public affairs work. The Treaty of Lisbon introduced a new dimension of lobbying at the European level that is different from most national lobbying. At the national level, lobbying is more a matter of personal and informal relations between the officials of national authorities, but lobbying at the European Union level is increasingly a part of the political decision-making process and thus part of the legislative process. 'European interest representation' is part of a new participatory democracy within the European Union. The first step towards specialised regulation of lobbying in the European Union was a Written Question tabled by Alman Metten, in 1989. In 1991, Marc Galle, Chairman of the Committee on the Rules of Procedure, the Verification of Credentials and Immunities, was appointed to submit proposals for a Code of conduct and a register of lobbyists. Today lobbying in the European Union is an integral and important part of decision-making in the EU. From year to year lobbying regulation in the EU is constantly improving and the number of lobbyists is increasing.

The nature of the activities of advocacy groups is highly dependent on the scope and extent on group aims and objectives. Motives for advocacy group action may be based on a shared political, religious, moral, health or commercial position. Groups use varied methods to try to achieve their aims including lobbying, media campaigns, publicity stunts, polls, research, and policy briefings. Some groups are supported or backed by powerful business or political interests and exert considerable influence on the political process, while others have few or no such resources.


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United States