Saturday, January 09, 2010

Opinion: Are lobbyists good, bad, or it depends. EXPLAIN.

China's lobbying efforts yield new influence, openness on Capitol Hill

By John PomfretSaturday, January 9, 2010
Ten years ago, U.S. lawmakers publicly accused the China Ocean Shipping Co. of being a front for espionage and blocked plans to expand its Long Beach, Calif., port terminal over fears that Chinese spies would use it to snoop on the United States.

By last year, Congress was seeing the state-owned Chinese behemoth in a far kinder light. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) authored a resolution applauding the company for employing thousands of Americans and helping keep the waters of Alaska clean. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) hailed the firm on the House floor, calling its chief executive "a people's ambassador" to the United States after it rescued Boston's port -- and thousands of jobs -- when a European shipping line moved out.

The congressional about-face illustrates a dramatic increase in China's influence on Capitol Hill, where for years its lobbying muscle never matched its ballooning importance in world affairs. Members of Congress, lobbyists and other observers said China's new prominence is largely the result of Beijing's increasingly sophisticated efforts to influence events at the center of U.S. power -- and a growing realization among U.S. lawmakers that China has become a critical economic player across America.

Although many Americans still view China with deep suspicion because of its communist system and human rights record, the results of Beijing's image-and-influence campaign are clear. Members of Congress "are starting to understand that the Chinese are not communist but that the Chinese are Chinese," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). China is Oregon's biggest export market after Canada.

"China is an overarching backdrop to almost everything that I am involved with," said the seven-term congressman, adding that on matters as diverse as the U.S. economy, climate change and energy policy, "China is something that no one can ignore."

For years, as China steadily rose to global economic and political heights, it all but ignored the U.S. Congress, with outreach to American lawmakers left to friends in the business community. But now China has launched a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort so effective that it is challenging the heralded efforts of nemesis Taiwan.

A decade ago, U.S. politicians of all stripes routinely subjected China to attacks. Now acts of benevolence are more likely -- such as a resolution commemorating the 2,560th birthday of Chinese philosopher Confucius, which the House overwhelmingly approved in October.

"There was originally this kind of anti-communist view of China," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who in 1979 became the first U.S. mayor to visit China when she ran San Francisco. "That's changing. . . . China is a socialist country but one that is increasingly becoming capitalistic."

The new openness toward China is often subtle and not shared by all. But an undeniable evolution is taking place, congressional staffers and analysts said, as members of Congress, many with increasing numbers of large and small businesses in their districts that depend on trade with China, are now far more likely to kill or water down measures opposed by Beijing.

While China maintains a huge trade surplus with the United States, U.S. exports to China have surged in recent years. In 2008, according to the U.S.-China Business Council, exports to China grew in 85 percent of congressional districts. China is now the third-biggest market for U.S. goods, after Canada and Mexico.

"People in Congress are not stupid," said Minxin Pei, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. "A few years ago, China-bashing was costless. Now they will get phone calls from worried CEOs. China is creating jobs in their congressional districts."

Zhou Wenzhong, China's avuncular ambassador, has visited about 100 senators and representatives in their districts during his four-year-old tenure in Washington. But he said it wasn't simply lobbying and shoe-leather efforts that have helped China's image in Congress.



Mr. Bretzmann said...

Check it out. Click on the Membership Directory and see how many there are. In Wisconsin, even the lobbyists have an organization. Lobbyists representing lobbyists...what a country!

Even better, check out all the organzations in WI that employ a lobbyist.

If you don't become a lawyer, become a lobbyist (or better yet, do both...there are a lot of lobbyists that are lawyers).

PMiner said...

I think it really depends... There are a lot of lobbyists that seam to be pointless. They are just there to make money and influence legislation in the way that will get them and their people more money. On the other hand lobbyists can be a good thing. I think the work Mr. Bretzmann told us about with his job with the UW school systems was a good thing. He was working for the people and it helped a lot of people. So all in all i really think it depends on their motive.

Mr. Bretzmann said...

UW-System students...this is your special interest group and you can use the other links to look up the names of your three lobbyists.

Astoiber said...

they are just another part of the ever expanding unnecessary socialist beaurocracy... blabla

personally i think the fastest way to get something you want done is to just do it

if people just used direct action instead of relying on representatives who dont give a flying f*** about your interests, the world would be a much better place.

in america money runs the government and lobbyists basically just bribe our representatives into doing what they want, not what the people want.

the people in this country need to come together, march over to washington and fire every mf in there. every last lobbyist, politician, and general

lobbyists are just unnecessary wastes of space that only care about their special interest and not the needs of anyone else

no offense mr. b

EBilton said...

I personally believe that lobbyists are a good thing to have because they can persuade the legislature to do what the people want and not just on what they want. They can also be a bad thing because the lobbyists get paid so they may just be in it for the money and not for the purpose of helping the government. In my opinion it depends on which way you want to look at it.

jreichart said...

Originally, the idea of lobbyists was a good one. The idea that a politician could have a number of representatives informing the politician on specific issues meant more people being heard.

However, that is not how lobbyists work now a days. There is a reason that the word lobbyist has such a negative connotation during political elections.

Stoibs is completely correct in the fact that some lobbyists don't care at all about anything other than their special interests. Having said that, I cannot make the assumption that every lobbyist acts this way.

We can once again see how money rules our politics. In many cases, these special interests are not representing the majority of society, but rather in some cases, rich CEO's of corporate America.

Will lobbyists completely go away anytime soon? NO. That is just like asking if politicians will magically stop having an interest in money.

ayork said...

Lobbyists are one of the elements of the government that makes it work. In my cynical view, I believe that everybody wants to get more for themselves--more money, more voters, more gain. The system seems bleak, but when EVERYONE is bad, it kinda balances out.

Lobbyists aren't the heroic figures that Mr. Bretzmann painted in class just to make himself look better... Rather they are individuals who are very good at getting what they want. The moral saving grace for these individuals is that they also, usually, have constituents so all the voices get heard. It's part of the Federalism that Madison outlined in his Federalist papers. All the different factions combine to balance the system out. Obviously the factions with the most money and followers get what they want. In today's world there are still factions. Lobbyists make sure, for the most part, that the largest factions with the most money still get the most representation.

MKlinka said...

Lobbyists are good, they are the ultimate good, because they make the system work. Lobbyists represent factions and help make social changes in ways that may not normally happen in a direct democracy. The more factions you have, and the more competition between those factions you have, the better off you are. We have so many lobbyists with competing interests, so many with intertwined interests, that lobbyists have come to represent everything. Here's the fantastic part, the more powerful factions, or lobbyist groups have more support, and are in turn likely to be those representing the interests of more people in the nation. This representative system also then allows for more informed decisions. Certainly there is also bribery going on, but that links back to might being right. In a direct democracy, no one really cares about the muck farmers, but in this representative lobby system, people do. The muck farmer lobbyists can become incredibly educated as to the nuances of muck farming and then help the government decide on subsidies for the muck farmers. I find it hard to believe that in a direct democracy that that could happen.

aprichard said...

Yes Stoiber. Good idea. Lets march over to congress and ask every representative and senator if they have had sexual intercourse with their mother and fire them... Or is that not what you mean. I think that your word choice seems to be lacking in persuasion. For example, if I said i disagreed with your beliefs on ruling the nation with anarchy, it would be politically sound, but if i called you a mf with the tolerance level of a four year old, that would mean something completely different. Get the picture? Hate to do this to you but get a grip on reality for a couple seconds.
As for the question, Lobbyists are a two-sided coin. When it comes to getting what they want, they are ruthless and men of two faces. Not to stereotype, but they will sink as low as necessary to secure their sponsor's intrests. On the otherside, the ideals they stand before are generally with good intent. The UW lobbyists benefit us by lowering costs of tuition, there are lobbyists providing health insurance for those who need it, there are lobbyists supporting groups that desire stem-cell research.

It is just a matter of who they benefit and who is harmed. Those who prosper from them will praise their existance; those who lose to them will curse their existance.

Diana said...

I believe it depends on what the lobbyist is lobbying for and the character of the individual. For example, lobbyists that work for a tabacco company aren't doing the most good they can do for people. Also, alot of them seem to be in the job just for the money and do not remotely care about what they are lobbying for. In my oppinion, lobbyists are often simply bribed to promote a certain idea of company. But, teacher's lobbyists have been seen in the most positive light. Many help better the teachers. It definitely depends on what the lobbyists are promoting.

K-Iglinski said...

Prichard there is no need to make andy feel stupid. He just asnt thinking. Refering to the question, lobbyists are good and bad. Tehy can be good at times when there perople that pay them what what is right. they also can be bad when they just do what they are told nomatter what the outcome may be. Some lobbyists are just in it fot the money and others for what is right.

TyKant said...

I think lobbyists are a good thing because they can persuade the legislature to do what the people want and/or need and not just what they want. They can also be a bad thing because they get paid so they could just be doing it for the money and not for the purpose of helping the government. I am more towards the side of that they are a good thing to have though.

Ryan Paprocki said...

Lobbyists (and activists) are good because people are generally morons. And the morons that are politicians actually have power. The Sarah Palins and Michelle Bachmanns of the world need to know what's going on outside their surrounding bubble of ignorance.

Then again they could still just ignore the "good" lobbyists and instead believe the shady guy feeding them false information. There's too many idiots involved which is also why I'm not a big fan of democracy in general.

Tereza said...

Are lobbyists good? They generalization of anything is not accurate; therefore I can not admit to thinking that all lobbyists are good. Although the general opinion portrayed is that they are bad- I can not attest to agree with that statement either. It really depends on the morality of the lobbyist's tactics, and if one agrees with what the lobbyist is lobbying.

Famigliettim said...

i agree with tereza, there is no definite answer, but i believe it is closer to yes, it is just another way to have citizens, these ones professionals, influence our government. some fight for more noble causes than the others, but all in all they are trying to make our country, no, our world a better place. thank god that there are no private militias and that war is the only profitable form of economy... the last part was related to some of my other posts

Astoiber said...

sorry aprich.
i try to avoid reality at all costs

rlepak said...

I have to agree with a lot of the comments that lobbyists are both good and bad. Some lobbyists are only there to be there. They want money and power, and use our political system to gain it. However, lobbyists are U.S. citizens, so they do represent part of what the people want. They understand how the system works and can help other citizens with the same needs.

klatour said...

I also agree with many of the previous comments. There are plenty of lobbyists who are involved for all the right reasons and are trying to make a positive change to some issue, which is awesome. However, some lobbyists are in it solely for the money and that is never good. An ulterior motive to a lobbyist lobbying the way he or she does is rarely a good thing.

K-Laz said...

A lobbyist can be both good or bad. It really does depend on what or who they are lobbying for. I do recall Mr. Bretzmann stating he was a lobbyist, so i would usually say they are good. If many lobbyists were like Mr. Bretzmann then we could conclude that they are all good. BUT, all lobbyists aren't like our teacher. So there are many lobbyists out there and many are good people, but some aren't. With every stereotype comes controversy, and with this one there are many negatives.

AAgostini said...

As many people have previously said, it's inaccurate to generalize lobbyists as good or bad and so it depends. There will always be those in government, lobbyists included, that are driven by their own selfish motives. However there are certainly those lobbyists who are not driven by greed or hunger for power or money but by a genuine desire to help society and make a change for the better. The principle of lobbying is a positive one for the reason that more voices can be heard in government--a good element for a democracy to have.

Brandon D said...

It really depends, they can be good because they are an extension of what the people want. But at the same time they can be paid to push for something a certain group wants.

j.polinski said...

I believe it really depends on what you are lobbying for. By that, I mean that there are always those people who do something they could care less about just to get money and not think of the consequences about, and then there are people who are really passionate about what they are doing and try doing what they feel is best.