Home / news / Lobby groups in “K Street” .. This is how democracy is sold to America

Lobby groups in “K Street” .. This is how democracy is sold to America

A few minutes of searching on one of the most popular job sites is enough to give the reader a complete picture of the American lobbies world and the changes that have entered it in recent years.

Just by searching using the word lobbyist on Linkedin or Indeed, hundreds of jobs are available to the browser under different names, and among the most frequent jobs is the job of “Legislative Coordinator” and “Director of Government Relations” (Government. Relation Director).

The duties and tasks of these functions refer to working “to support the company in its efforts to pressure the federal and local governments by analyzing thousands of laws and providing top management with information on current and future political trends.”

In some cases, the job requires at least 3 years of work experience in a committee of the Senate or House of Representatives, or working in the offices of a member of Congress, and the average salary for this job starts from $ 60,000 and reaches 90,000 annually.

As for the position of the director of government relations offered to a military industries company, it is more important, as its tasks include identifying opportunities available from federal government programs and specialized agencies, developing and maintaining long-term relationships with policy makers and legislators, and providing them with the necessary data and information in the field of the company.

The tasks also include presenting views and expectations regarding the federal budget, congressional funds, and all legislation related to business, consistent with the company’s established priorities and values, and the salary for this position is not less than $ 150,000 annually.

These functions reflect a general picture of the tasks of the professional “lobby” within the teams of companies and institutions. The nature of these jobs and the tasks associated with them have changed dramatically over the past years according to the great change in the nature of the US economy.

One of the intersections with “K Street” in Washington (French)

Companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple are no longer just looking for technology and development skills in their new employees, nor is it restricted to attracting the best programmers and the smartest engineers, but these giants have expanded and competed to attract government relations managers or law-making experts with solid relationships. With a number of House and Senate committees.

These companies, and others, established huge offices in Washington. They also employed tens and hundreds of those with previous government experience to implement what the lobbying required, targeting members of Congress and officials of relevant ministries and government agencies.

Lobby activities are not limited to workers within different companies and institutions only, but there are several forms of conducting lobby activities, including:

Interest groups

It is a group or institution that has an influential presence in Washington, and spends money to maintain this presence by playing an influential role in the American policy-making process. The American Chamber of Commerce is one of the most important examples of an interest group that has a presence dating back to 1912, and has aimed since that date, and directly through its employees, to support legislation and policies in the interest of companies and the private business sector, by supporting tax cuts, facilitating government procedures and supporting Free trade agreements, auxiliary legislation and facilitation of immigration procedures.

Lobby companies

They are private and professional companies that aim for profit through contracts with American clients (companies, associations, and unions) or foreign clients (institutions or countries). These lobbies pressure members of Congress and government officials to push for policies and legislation that serve the interests of their clients, in return for “big” money in most cases.

The revolving door phenomenon

It is a phenomenon related to the practices of the American lobby, and is represented in the exit of former administration officials or members of Congress to work in lobby companies, and then they return again after years to government work, and the repetition of this scenario, which indicates the exploitation of personal and private relationships to accomplish client tasks through direct networks. .

Akin Jump Strauss Hauer is among the 20 largest lobbying firms based on K Street (Reuters)

For example, after retiring from politics in 2019, former Democrat Alyana Ross Lehtinen joined a lobby firm.

She started in 1990 as a Representative of the Miami, Florida, area in the House of Representatives, then retired to immediately join the famous Akin Gump Strauss Hauer lobby service company.

During her long years in the House of Representatives, Lehtinen chaired the Foreign Relations Committee for several years, which allowed her to build a broad network of relations that was her most important asset that attracted the interests of her famous lobby company.

K Street and the origin of the American lobby

“K Street” refers to one of the most important streets in central Washington, DC, whose use has become synonymous with lobbyists and lobby companies.

Historically, many lobby firms were based in “K Street” as their headquarters, but this situation has changed over recent years. Most of the major lobbying firms no longer operate from “K Street”, and there is now one lobbying firm, Akin Jump Strauss House. It is among the top 20 lobbying firms based on Street K.

The term “lobby” dates back to England in the 18th century, when men began hanging out in the lobbies of London theaters in order to meet the powerful politicians who came to watch the theater.

It was not long before the phenomenon moved to the United States, and the Willard Hotel, next to the White House, was the center of this practice. Former President Ulysses Grant (1869-1877) was known to have breakfast daily in this hotel, which is only 200 meters from the White House. Only, which prompted the activists to the hotel lobby, carrying petitions and requests to present them directly to the president or to his senior aides.

The representation of lobbying firms is not limited to vested interests, as much of the lobby’s efforts are devoted to serving issues related to social justice, minority rights, and support for immigrants or refugees.

Its “Street K” has become synonymous with (French) lobbyists and lobby firms.

Lobbying mechanisms

Many commentators see lobby firms as a fourth power through their ability to support the passage of legislation or contribute to its elimination. Companies adopt different and variable strategies according to the different circumstances and nature of the challenges.

It can start media campaigns supported by statistics or studies and documents that come out of research centers claiming neutrality, and this aims to contribute to shaping public opinion in order to influence in one way or another the behavior of a legislator or a decision-maker. Other companies resort to advertising campaigns in traditional media and social media platforms in support or rejection of a specific project.

He was widely criticized for lobbying and influencing politicians. Some commentators say lobbyists that work for a specific industry like pharmaceuticals, for example, influence legislation in a way that benefits the industry primarily, not ordinary Americans.

Lobby and constitutional right

Legally, the United States defines the phenomenon of lobbies and pressure groups based on the First Amendment to the American Constitution, which was adopted within the first ten amendments of the Constitution as the “Bill of Rights” and was approved on December 15, 1791.

The First Amendment stipulates that “Congress shall not pass any law on establishing a religion or prohibit the freedom to practice it, or restrict freedom of speech or the press, or the right of people to meet peacefully, and to demand that the government do justice to them from prejudice.”

The lobbyists argue that they are in fact exercising a fundamental, constitutional right. The first amendment protects 5 main rights and prevents Congress from enacting any laws that would restrict these rights, and the fifth of these rights concerns the right of people to petition their government to remedy grievances.

Depending on the last paragraph related to the right of citizens to “demand that the government be fair to them from prejudice,” the phenomenon of pressure from citizens, companies, associations, or some community groups was born, developed and continued, and it also extended to foreign countries in attempts to influence the US government and its various decisions and positions.

Historically, the American Chamber of Commerce played a central role as a lobbying group for the various American businesses and companies. However, the complexities and enormity of the US economy have pushed companies to intervene directly in the “loping” process and pressure since the 1970s.

Effectiveness and results

The activities of the lobby are employed and justified by the complexity of the political, economic and technological conditions in today’s world, making it impossible for a member of Congress or a government official, and their assistants, to understand the complexities and dimensions of the thousands of draft decisions considered in each legislative session.

Lots of lobby companies were based in “Avenue K” (French).

There are 435 member offices in the House of Representatives, 100 in the Senate, and dozens of technical and qualitative committees. Legislators need a cadre of staff to assist them with a range of tasks, including researching and tracking legislation, communicating with the media and the outside world, writing their speeches, responding to their constituents’ calls and letters, or coordinating with the White House and federal agencies.

The lobbyists argue that it simply enables broad American groups to exercise their First Amendment rights to petition their government and defend their cause. With the growing size and complexity of the government, petitioning the government has become more complicated, and it is not something the average citizen can do without the help of professional lobbying groups.

Data and figures

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics – a research center specializing in lobbies and transparency affairs – indicates that $ 3.5 billion will be spent during 2020 on lobby activities and lobbying and influencing the US government from various sectors, industries, and American associations, in addition to a number of foreign countries. .

The spending of American companies represents the lion’s share among the bodies that allocate budgets for the lobby, and among the top 100 parties that spend on lobbying, there are 95 American companies, according to the Responsive Policy Center data.

According to the center’s data, 11,524 people work in this sector, spread over various economic and social sectors.

There is no economic sector that does not invest in pressure on the US government, and the following table shows the largest sectors in terms of spending during 2020:

  • Health sector: $ 615 million
  • Financial Sector: $ 539 million
  • Communications & Technology: $ 436 million
  • Energy sector: $ 293 million
  • Defense Industries: $ 103 million
  • Human Rights Associations: $ 45 million

The center notes that each company earned an average of $ 760 for spending one dollar on lobby activities, and 3,200 companies and institutions attempted to influence the federal government and the way it spent financial support packages related to the Coronavirus, which amounted to $ 3.2 trillion last summer.

The center’s data indicated that the health sector spent $ 168 million on lobbying efforts, and received $ 150 billion in government aid, the aviation industry spent $ 29 million on lobbies, and received $ 32 billion in government aid.

As for foreign countries, the spending rates of the first ten countries during the year 2020 reached approximately $ 232 million, and they were as follows:

  • Russia: $ 41 million
  • Qatar: $ 34 million
  • China: $ 31 million
  • Japan: $ 26 million
  • South Korea: $ 23 million
  • The Bahamas: $ 21 million
  • Marshall Islands: $ 16 million
  • Israel: $ 15 million
  • United Arab Emirates: $ 13 million
  • Saudi Arabia: $ 12 million

Lobby effectiveness

The use of major lobby companies does not mean ensuring that various draft decisions are passed or obstructed. For each party that supports a specific legislation, there are often groups that oppose this or that legislation, especially in local issues related to public health policies or legislation and restrictions on carrying weapons.

The matter differs in foreign issues, and a state cannot pass legislation pertaining to it unless there is support that transcends party affiliation and brings together legislators from both parties behind this or that legislation. This situation is clearly evident in the legislation relating to America’s foreign policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict, where there is broad support for Israel from members of both parties.

While some countries know different successes and failures, according to the degree to which the agenda of their lobbies is based on policies supported by Washington’s political circles. For example, hostility to Iran or the forces of political Islam in the Arab Spring stage represents an agenda that is easy to promote in Washington, in contrast to the possibility of promoting the right of the Palestinian people to a free and independent state.

The matter here is not related to the skill and strength of the lobby companies’ communications and the proximity of their team to members of Congress or White House officials. Rather, it depends mainly on the orientations of US foreign policy that are supported by the two parties, the Democratic and Republican.

The efforts of dozens of lobby firms with which Saudi Arabia contracted before 2016 failed to hinder the passage of the “JASTA Law”. The law, which allows the families of victims of the events of September 11, 2001 to sue the Saudi government, passed an unprecedented majority and unanimity in both houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In a rare case, all members of Congress voted in favor of the resolution before former President Barack Obama intervened with a presidential veto to try to stop it. Despite the intervention of the White House, the Defense Department, and large numbers of former diplomats and experts in attempts to dissuade Congress from its decision, JSTA has become law with a majority of 97 votes to one in the Senate, and by 348 votes to 77 in the House of Representatives.

The Lobby Activities Transparency Act of 1995 regulated the procedures, rules, and restrictions governing the US lobby industry, most importantly registering with the federal government and providing details of its activities. Amendments were introduced in 2007, which increased restrictions on lobby companies, and now prohibits, for example, contact between members of Congress and lobby company employees who previously served on the same congressional committees.

Executive Order No. 13490 issued by former President Barack Obama included a ban on accepting gifts from lobbyists and lobbies, and a ban on the work of any former official in lobby companies until two years after the end of his government job.




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