It is hard for me to find fault with any company which lobbies the government because they have no choice. If they don't play the game someone else will and use their influence to get the power of government applied to their competitors directly or indirectly.
One way to fix it is not to prevent anyone from spending money on campaigns but to instead prohibit politicians, their immediate family, and relatives, from participating in any position that may have influence over a regulating body. It is very common to have family of politicians benefit by either getting jobs directly with a lobbying company or lobbying firm but the other method is through PACs which pay them huge salaries for part time work.
I could care less what they do before they are in office but once in it needs to be clamped down. congress and their relatives are more likely to increase their wealth by magnitudes than lose it, the reason is simple, they structured the rules to benefit them and make it nigh impossible to unseat them
This is explicitly forbidden by both House and Senate rules. If you have concrete examples, I would recommend publishing them where you can or contacting the correct committee  or . These are specific implementations of the statutory rules about bribery, and the case you describe is almost certainly applicable.
The biggest commonly used loophole in this policy is that there are no restrictions after the politician leaves office, which leads to the so-called "revolving door" where former politicians are employed as lobbyists . While the practice makes sense in a good faith setting -- former legislators are familiar with the processes and individuals, and thus can be more effective at presenting the information that the lobbying organization wants to bring to their attention -- ethically it is a minefield because it is impossible to distinguish it from deferred bribery.
And it just so happens that his latest book covers the family angle: Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062569368/
Big companies don't have any choice if they want to stay in existence without shakedowns that might end up crushing them. Microsoft's biggest crime in the 1990s as Washington viewed it? Not spending enough money there.
The real culprit in the pervasive corporatism in the US is campaign finance. Quid pro quo is the name of the game here. Politicians know that if corporations aren't helping them get elected that they will be helping their opponents get elected. It's a hell of a lot easier to say no to a lobbyist than it is to a campaign donor that could easily turn on you. If we banned corporate lobbying, Congress would simply make more uninformed decisions, but banning corporate campaign finance would eliminate an incentive for deliberately bad decisions.
It is the job of lobbyists to get politicians to do what the lobbyist wants. Campaign finance, job offers, favors for people the politician cares about, status symbols such as honorary degrees - all are normal stock in trade for a lobbyist.
That said, I agree. Lobbyists who do none of the things that are known to be effective, are ineffective and do not have an impact. They also do not deliver results and do not tend to get happy clients.
An interesting idea in principal, but not legal or even practical under western systems of government. If my brother runs for office and wins, that shouldn't limit my employment options. We aren't going to fire people from government jobs because of the actions of their family members.
Now, for some reason, they are being demonized for being large and participating in a system that has existed for centuries. They got large because they built things people wanted. What's wrong with that? I just don't get it. It's like a mob with pitchforks is forming to break-up "big tech" and they won't be satisfied until they've slayed the giants whether it's justified or not.
I think for a lot of people, myself included, it's because we weren't supposed to just "participate" in that system. We meant to improve it, to make it more fair, and more useful for all people. To improve lives and do no evil, as it were.
Instead, we've wound up with the exact same robber barons of old. This time, instead of trains or oil or telegraph poles, we've created behemoths that actively try to spy on, categorize, and monetize people to extents never before dreamed possible.
Worse, lots of the people around us--people who claimed to be interested in the same things we were--are now demonizing us for our long-held views, "privacy obviously isn't that important because people so willingly give it up just read the terms of service" and "steady jobs with benefits stifle innovation being paid by the piece as a transient worker with no employment protections is the new hotness because people so willingly sign up for it just read the terms of service."
Lots of people lined up to take hatchets to Microsoft twenty years ago but now Google and Amazon get away with much worse far more often and they're deemed untouchable. That baffles me. I can't "look up" to those companies who came after and trampled over the imperfect vision of people who came before, especially when they started out trying to build the vision we thought we said we wanted but then turned to the path that makes the most money in bulk even though it compromises almost all of those beliefs.
Yes, but since then they've all made some public missteps. Facebook has repeatedly abused user data, Amazon routinely sells counterfeits, Google leverages user data for advertising and has a questionable track record with China, etc... People see that and feel like they want to switch to some competitor, but they don't know of one because Google, Facebook, and Amazon are the dominant parts of their experience of the internet.
What I think most people don't realize is that the world does not in fact revolve around Google/Amazon/Facebook and despite their market share, they don't actually have monopolies in their industries. *diaspora is a thing. So is Duck Duck Go. So is Ali Express (or, you know, just buying stuff at a brick and mortar store) And so on.
In the context of this ignorance, I think it becomes easier to sympathize with some pitchfork rattling.
Since the late '90s, states and local communities have argued that Amazon's ability to skirt charging local sales tax in most states gave it an unfair price advantage. It took years for the laws to close that loophole because we didn't previously have a major business that could sell exclusively online without opening in-state stores.
> They got large because they built things people wanted.
Again, this is a selective reading of history. Amazon was making losses consistently until about 2004, 10 years into its life. It was kept afloat by investors and lenders, not customers.
There have always been powerful business entities in history and there will always be - they could be banks, oil companies, rail companies etc. The difference between these companies and tech companies is this - tech companies are extraordinarily powerful and pervasive. It is very, very difficult to avoid using Google for example. Even if I stopped using all Google products today, I still have to email people who are using gmail. I don't use Facebook, but I am pretty sure they have tons of info on me, because of shadow profiles. And so on.
"Big tech" as you call them, they have unbelievable amount of power over our lives than other "big" whatever. That is why people are worried, and rightfully so.
True, to an extent. They could become even bigger because city governments were openly willing to give them billions in tax breaks.
Small businesses don't get benefits like this from the government. Nobody should.
People should vote not companies.
Only by acting collectively can this sort of thing make a difference. Large organizations like the National Rifle Associations have influence not because they can bribe politicians through donations, but because their large membership means that an endorsement or condemnation from that organization can cause the members to act individually in support of or against a politician.
For that matter, political parties in the United States are really no more than giant PAC in themselves -- they help candidates by narrowing their field of support to a single candidate in elections and by helping them get the signatures necessary to get on the ballots (which are technically open to anyone, not just those affiliated with a party), in exchange for which members of the party are expected, to some degree, to support party-line initiatives.
Where are these contribution numbers coming from, then? http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=B
This is not true for super PACs. Their only restriction is that they can't coordinate directly with a candidate. This is problematic because it is incredibly simple to coordinate directly but hide your tracks, and it's also incredibly simple to coordinate indirectly.
To preempt, campaign contributions are considered speech because (in theory) there are legal limits on what you can do with them.
How would you go about restricting corporate speech without restricting people's speech?
And, more so, why would you want to?
Scenario A: 1,000 people organize into a company. One of those people is the Founder/CEO who takes the vast majority of the money out of the company into his personal wealth. It is uncontested that this natural person can then use his wealth to buy ads/throw big dinner parties and invite politicians/etc. right?
Scenario B: 1,000 people organize into a company. They distribute the money of the company relatively equally, meaning that no single person in the company has enough money to buy ads/throw big dinner parties and invite politicians/etc. But they think it's important for their company to lobby. But in your world, they can't.
What principle is being served here? Make sure that only the personally wealthy can speak? That doesn't sound amazing.
What exact types of groups do you want to deny speech rights to? "Company" is a vague term. Do you want to deny speech rights to non-profits? To political parties? If you deny speech rights only to corporations organized under certain for-profit tax rules, do you imagine that it would be hard for Amazon to work around that rule?
Sure they can, just not under the (limited liability) umbrella of the corporation. Do you believe the lobbying done by Amazon is approved of by all Amazon employees? Do you want foreign corporations lobbying the government?
The fact that not all Amazon employees approve of the lobbying is irrelevant. Not all union members approve of all the union lobbying done. Should we silence unions? Not all members of a political party approve of all the positions taken by political parties. Should we silence political parties? When people join up into groups, they trade increased power for the fact that the group will not perfectly reflect their preferences.
It surely is the case that lots of people who work at Amazon want Amazon to continue to lobby for things that will help Amazon become more valuable, thus making it less likely they will be laid off and making their equity more valuable.
In what way is the world better if Amazon increases Jeff Bezos' salary by $AMOUNT_THEY_SPEND_ON_LOBBYING and then Jeff Bezos spends that money on lobbying for whatever he wants, which surely includes "making Amazon successful"? Even if Amazon rigorously does not direct him to spend that money or audit his efforts?
I'm fine with foreign companies lobbying the government. Why wouldn't I be?
Also, technically, companies also don't really exist. People do. A company, no matter how big should be allowed to fail and die. A human life matters a lot more. Does it? Do we want it to?
Maybe we should start optimising our policies not with respect to GDP or economical growth but with respect to the actual living: humans, animals, fish and even plants.
If we do want companies to vote then let's make it official. But then there are unlimited number of companies we can create.
Let's vote with money than and stop being hypocrites. 1 person with 1M trumps 900k with $1. Whomever has $$$ can vote be it a company, person or dog that inherited the money. At least in this way we know how it works and change our behaviour accordingly but at least let's be honest about it.
Is your speech as persuasive as everyone else's? Obviously not, and there is no way I can see to make that happen. If anyone has a proposal, then, you know, cool. But what I see in this thread is a lot of people making vague airy proclamations and then ignoring all practical objections like, "How would that actually work? Would there be horrifying consequences?"
I'm not sure that this is in the end a distinction that is useful. Even making such contracts unenforceable would not really change things. Neither party to the contract is in violation of the law. So if a group lobbies on my behalf, and I pay them, then all is well and good. If there's a dispute, and after they lobby, I refuse to pay them (even for cause) then the enforceability of the contract comes into play, but that's a little more rare and the extralegal system (like reputation) means that this will do little to curtail lobbying.
What if someone goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Arlington, Virginia? What if that meeting happens to have some minor official from OSHA in attendance? What if people go from the meeting to a local bagel shop?
But any talks that are explicit efforts of lobbying should be public and available.
I'm not arguing that companies are negatively biasing democratic representation, I think they are. But they are just people too, so this particular argument is pretty weak to me.
Source: family members are lobbyists.
There was a freshman congressperson who noted that during their initial, explicitly nonpartisan policy briefings that both sides of issues were represented by different lobbying firms.
Imagine if there was a policy briefing for Congress around encryption standards and the only voices in the room were vendors selling encryption software.
There's no space in that framework to communicate with our governmental leaders about things like open source / the benefits of non-proprietary standards, etc. And it's that way for every conceivable topic.
Also, the U.S. system of "vote transparency" (votes are anonymous in almost all other cases, and for good reason) in Congress means that the lobbyists know which politician voted for what, and the politicians also know that the companies donating tens of thousand of dollars to them will know how they voted, too - so they will vote "accordingly" if they want that income stream to continue in the future.
This is a rotten/corrupt relationship/dependency that should not exist in a democracy that's supposed to listen to the "voice of the people".
Lobbying is not an exclusive concept. I could right now pay someone to go lobby the government for me. Obviously I wouldn't get very far, but what if my neighbors and I pooled our money together? And their neighbors? And so on and so forth and indeed that is how many lobbying arms are formed outside of industry.
Ultimately at the end of the day, Lobbying is viewed with contempt because we have corrupt officials that weigh the opinions of certain lobbyist who are looking to corrupt the law for their own interests more than what is good for the general public. If you took out lobbying right now, you would still be left with corrupt officials that weigh the opinions of people with money more than the general public. But here is the kicker: you would do more harm than good, because now advocacy groups do not have a way to influence officials. Lobbying, however contemptible it seems to most people, exists because it does serve a purpose. Your elected officials cannot possibly keep up with the sea of issues in their constituencies. Lobbying provides a sort of self-selecting way for the more important issues to "bubble up to the top"
What is always missing from conversations on lobbying is the hundreds of other lobbying groups that have as their mission to serve to improve the general good or public and how eliminating it would impact the good that is done by them (as evidenced by sibling comment by mtgx).
It's not like you spend $600K on lobbying and it's a $600K transfer from the corporation to the elected officials. A lot of that money ends up in the hands of the lobbyists.
Another cool thing about lobbying is that you can explore the landscape and find the weakest link that gets you what you want. You choose your own target at your own pace and time. Unlike the democratic process that happens only now and then.
Additionally, you can apply pressure in one or multiple points.
Whoever is lobbying not only has resources as in $$$ but also has a bit more time to wait. People die, companies survive for decades or even centuries. You only need to get things 'right' once and then you are set for life.
If it wouldn't work, nobody would use it.
There are institutional investors who have stakes in a much wider variety of companies than Amazon. Why aren't they at the top of the list?