“In defense of lobbying”

This morning, USA Today published a column by Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker "in defense of lobbying."

The piece begins "This country’s Founders actually set up a system to encourage the petitioning of government. And yes, like it or not, that means lobbyists have the same claims to the First Amendment as our free press does."

Later, Professor Baker continues:  

"It might come as a surprise to most people that lobbying is a constitutionally protected activity under the hallowed First Amendment. After the Founding Fathers cast the cloak of protection over freedom of religion, the press and the right to peacefully assemble, they added a category that could not be infringed upon by the federal government: ‘to petition the government for a redress of grievances‘…the idea of giving citizens access to government was seen by the writers of the Constitution as something worth safeguarding. And it is, indeed, worth safeguarding because every group in America, at one time or another, has got a gripe and turns to Congress or the federal bureaucracy."

The column also highlights that "James Madison recognized the tendency of Americans to advance their own economic self-interest at the expense of the general good and pondered what to do about it. He dismissed the possibility of banning these "factions," arguing that they are a byproduct of our freedom. His solution was just to allow them to multiply and, as the country expanded, no single interest would dominate."

And as for those "bad" lobbyists, Professor Baker reminds us that "it would be as unfair to assume that all lobbyists are like Jack Abramoff as it would be to liken all physicians to Jack Kevorkian."