Is Lobbying Ethical?
Aaron Rogan, a journalist for the Sunday Business Post is totally in favour of lobbying. He knows that it would be absurd to expect politicians to avoid the opinions of their constituents. Rogan spoke to Ellen Gunning on Dublin City FM’s Mediascope. Businesses and marketing agents need the ability to advocate for themselves. Voters need to understand how businesses are affecting governing bodies. The lobbying law is clear about registering to lobby for public officials. However, contact with lower-level government officials do not have to be registered. Aaron argues that junior level politicians can report to larger decision makers and influence decisions.
Lobbyists and public relations officials may not directly ask for a decision maker to change a law. However, they can advocate for themselves to a subordinate employee knowing that they will eventually go to someone higher up the ladder. “Why shouldn’t it be transparent?” Ronan argues that every company should be required to announce their opinions. Information can be difficult to separate from lobbying. A company sharing how a law will affect them is technically a simple sharing of facts, but it is a form of influencing the law. The involvement of legislation or regulation is what differentiates between a company updating the government about their policies and a company lobbying for changes to the law. Does the data privacy commissioner have a right to monitor what Tik Tok is doing? Ellen argues that companies who hire consultancy firms should automatically flagged as lobbying. A cooperation would not hire an outside professional unless they needed something changed.
Aaron says that a company would not share information with a senator unless they wanted to change his opinion on something. A company inquiring about how a law will affect them is not lobbying. However, sharing information for the good of their own health is not the same as communicating an idea with the intent to change someone’s mind.
“It is arguing in favour of an issue that would benefit the public generally and also benefit your company” argued Ellen Gunning. Ellen pointed out that a company sharing information on a law that people outside of an enterprise will be unaffected by is not part of lobbying because the public is not affected. The purpose of marketing and public relations is to communicate your business and operations to the public as well as the government. The lobbying act offers a structure for businesses who talk to elected officials. A lot of companies do register informal discussions around issues with governing officials at certain events.
There is currently no power for the government to enforce policies around lobbying. Robust enforcements are needed to force companies into transparency around their conversations with politicians. Unattended consequences from laws are easier to avoid with regular reports about who is pushing for which law. The public would benefit from information about the way cooperation’s influence policies. Creating legislation that will encourage honesty about political advocacy is how we can move towards more ethical lobbying.
Listen to Ellen Gunning’s conversation with Aaron Regan on Spotify:
Originally aired on Dublin City FM’s Mediascope