Conventional wisdom would have us believe that it is greedy businesses, only interested in securing ever increasing profits, that corrupts the sanctified inhabitants of the Washington power structure. The theory goes that evil corporations pay lobbyists top dollar to tempt pure as the driven snow politicians to do their bidding with favorable legislation and loopholes to laws that may mitigate ill-gotten corporate gains. Well, I am here to tell you that conventional wisdom on this subject is 180 degrees out of alignment with reality.
Think about it, if the businesses that hire lobbyists were so greedy, why would they want to spend money on lobbyists unless the expectation existed that they would have some success in influencing politicians to give them favorable treatment? Politicians, in some cases, pass restrictive legislation that results in bureaucratic regulations on businesses that require the assistance of members of Congress to provide workarounds to that very legislation. If businesses were largely regulated by the patronage of their customers or clients, they would have no financial incentive to hire lobbyists to influence members of Congress. As it is, some industries such as banking and financial services, are so heavily regulated by government that their very survival is dependent upon currying favor with politicians and regulators that have a stranglehold on their industry.
It is easy to see, for those with the courage to face the truth, that in large part it is not business that corrupts government, but government that corrupts business. The very over-bearing government that many on the Left think is a good thing, creates cronyism between big business and big government. The taxing of Internet sales is exemplary of big business using big government to crush their smaller competitors. Companies like Amazon.com are lobbying for Internet sales tax legislation because they know that their smaller competitors would never have the resources to comply with the almost 10,000 different taxing authorities in the United States. The large established Internet companies are trying to use the power of big government to eliminate competition just as the big banks accomplished with so-called financial reform, also known as Dodd/Frank.
Many on the Left and the right have been very vociferous in their support of stricter guidelines being placed on the lobbying industry. But the effectiveness of spending millions on lobbyists to influence the heavy hand of government on business would be mitigated if that heavy hand were simply removed from the equation. Some have even suggested banning lobbyists, but the practice is as old as the republic and is guaranteed by the Constitution in the "right of the people to petition their government."
The very term lobbyist was coined by General Grant during the Civil War when he came to Washington to meet with President Lincoln and found advocates hanging around the lobby of the hotel where he was staying, which was also the place where members of Congress stayed when they were in town. The influence of lobbyists has grown so great since then due to the ever-increasing scope and power of government, that lobbyists are often involved in the drafting of legislation. And this situation, created by corrupt politicians, is anathema to the very Constitutional authority of Congress to make laws. The "right of the people to petition their government," i.e., lobbying, has been corrupted by a government that has grown too large in its influence over the daily activities of the governed.