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Lobbying

LOBBYING, in America, a general term used to designate the efforts of persons who are not members of a legislative body to influence the course of legislation. In addition to the large number of American private bills which are constantly being introduced in Congress and the various state legislatures, there are many general measures, such as proposed changes in the tariff or in the railway or banking laws, which seriously affect special interests. The people who are most intimately concerned naturally have a right to appear before the legislature or its repre- sentative, the committee in charge of the bill, and present their side of the case. Lobbying in this sense is legitimate, and may almost be regarded as a necessity. Unfortunately, however, all lobbying is not of this innocent character. The great industrial corporations, insurance companies, and railway and traction monopolies which have developed in comparatively recent years are constantly in need of legislative favours; they are also compelled to protect themselves against legislation which is unreasonably severe, and against what are known in the slang of politics as strikes or hold-ups. 1 In order that these objects may be accomplished there are kept at Washington and at the various state capitals paid agents whose influence is so well recognized that they are popularly called " the third house." Methods of the most reprehensible kind have often been employed by them.

Attempts have been made to remedy the evil by constitutional prohibition, by statute law and by the action of the governor of the state supported by public opinion. Improper lobbying has been declared a felony in California, Georgia, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon, Montana and Arizona, and the constitutions of practically all of the states impose restrictions upon the enactment of special and private legislation. The Massachusetts anti-lobbying act of 1890, which has served as a model for the legislation of Maryland (1900), Wisconsin (1905) and a few of the other states, is based upon the publicity principle. Counsel and other legislative agents must register with the sergeant-at-arms giving the names and addresses of their employers and the date, term and character of their employment. In 1907 alone laws regulating lobbying were passed in nine states Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.

See James Bryce, American Commonwealth (New York, ed. 1889), i. 673-678; Paul S. Reinsch, American Legislatures and Legislative Methods (New York, 1907), chaps, viii., ix. ; Margaret A. Schaffner, " Lobbying," in Wisconsin Comparative Legislation Bulletins, No. 2; and G. M. Gregory, The Corrupt Use of Money in Politics and Laws for its Prevention (Madison, Wis., 1893).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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