I was going to open this blog post with a joke, but it seems that lobbyists and interest groups are so misunderstood that no one has bothered creating jokes about them. Either that or they are masters at erasing bad press – I will let you decide.
I have long been confused as to why people look down on political organizations, associations, and lobbyists. Everyone has something that they care about, something they want the government to address, or fix, or leave alone. It is through lobbyists and interest group associations that such matters get the attention of elected officials, especially on the state and federal level. Lobbyists and interest groups provide information and can bring attention to issues that would otherwise be overlooked or misunderstood by legislators and their staff. Having an organized group provide information on behalf of their members is useful in advancing any agenda. Through the power of numbers comes strength and the ability to influence.
Without the possibility of having an organized opinion heard in Washington or Richmond, many people would feel either completely disenfranchised, or would feel compelled to make their voice heard in a more violent or disruptive manner.
I took a moment to look up a list of organizations, non-profits, and companies that have representation in Richmond. Here is a small sample:
- Loudoun Chamber
- National Association of Manufacturers
- George Mason University
- Virginia Craft Brewers Guild
- National Federation of Independent Businesses
- Virginia Education Association
- Sierra Club
- Service Employees International Union
- Virginia Family Foundation
- Virginia Bankers Association
- Alliance for School Choice
- Virginians for Fox Hunting
- Virginia Music Educators Association
- Virginia Charitable Bingo Association
The list goes on and on and on.
Maybe you work for (or own) a large company and you have a full-time government relations staff, or have a lobbying firm on retainer in DC or Richmond. But for most small and medium size businesses, that is simply not a financial option. Many business owners instead rely on organizations such as the Loudoun Chamber to represent their interests in front of the government. Just in the past few months the Loudoun Chamber has worked with local and state officials to stop a change in the Virginia meals tax laws, protect vineyards and breweries from oppressive regulations, and took a strong stand against increases in the minimum wage.
So, the next time you hear a friend or news commentator lament about the influence of special interest groups and powerful lobbyists, keep in mind that the Loudoun Chamber is working on your behalf to represent your special interests. And that is a very good thing.