Washington DC and state capitals are overrun by lobbyists. How should legislators deal with them and still work in the public interest?
There is no way to get rid of lobbyists. In a perfect world, lobbyists could be a useful source of information for legislators. Some lobbyists work for good causes. But we are all too familiar with the massive amounts of money and corporate influence that is wielded by many lobbyists with a corrupting affect on legislation. Is there anything we can do to improve matters?
My proposal is that each legislator should make a pledge to make all meetings with lobbyists public. Allow reporters to observe, or make a recording, or whatever it takes so that lobbyists know that what they discuss with a legislator could become known by everyone.
Ideally, a lobbyist should be trying to argue that whatever cause they are promoting is in the public interest. If the cause is not in the public interest, why should a legislator support it? If it is in the public interest, then the lobbyist and the legislator should have no problem with the discussion being public. The role of the lobbyist should be to provide information.
If deals or compromises need to be made, then let the legislators make them among themselves. That is part of their job.
Of course, it is unlikely that most legislators would make such a pledge. So somehow this needs to be made an election issue. I want to see ads saying how a candidate will make the pledge and his opponent won't, and ask just what is the opponent doing in those secret meetings.
Lobbyists for good causes have nothing to hide. Corrupt ones do.