Lobbying and the American Political System
Carl Pope is Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Since Pope’s appointment in 1992, Sierra Club has added 150,000 new members, bringing the total membership to 700,000. Pope has a distinguished record of environmental activism and leadership.
Prior to his work with the Sierra Club, Pope served on the Boards of the California League of Conservation Voters, Public Voice, National Clean Air Coalition, California Common Cause and Public Interest Economics, Inc. He is the co-author of Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress, and other books including Hazardous Waste in America and Sahib, an American Misadventure in India. Pope was educated at Harvard University and spent two years in the Peace Corps in India on graduation.
Question: Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
Carl Pope: Well lobbying in the American political system actually is a word that we use to discuss two very different phenomena. The original meaning of the term was people who stood in the lobby of the Capitol . . . This was before checks, so they didn’t even stand there with checkbooks. They stood there with wads of cash and they paid off members of Congress. They were a firewall between Congress and the public, and their job was to prevent the public’s view from having weight. Now from that point of view, which is how most Americans think about lobbying . . . You say to most people, “What’s a lobbyist?” They say, “A lobbyist is . . .” You say, “What’s a synonym for lobbyist? Teacher, messenger, bag man?” Most people will vote for bag man. That’s the kind of lobbying most people think about, and that is a very important part of what happens in Washington. We also use the term “lobbying” for five school teachers from Northern Minnesota who come in to talk to their congressman about the fact they need a new bridge. Now yes, maybe those are the same things. But calling it by the same term I think conceals more than it reveals. And our view of our job is to be that bridge between the school teacher in Minnesota and her congressman.
Recorded on: September 27, 2007.
"Lobbying," says Pope, is a word that describes two very different phenomena.
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