Will More Lobbyists Help?

A recent report by the Center for Public Integrity shows the number of lobbyists on climate change increasing by 300 % over the past five years. Today, it notes, 2,340 high-paid lobbyists, including big hitters such as former House Majority Leader Dick Gephart (D-Missouri) and former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Livingston (R-Louisiana) swarm the halls of Washington.

This news is to some degree reassuring. It means that Congress is getting down to business and hashing out the details of a national cap and trade system. And, like any other big legislative project, intelligent debate about the specifics of is what is needed to ensure that it works effectively in the long run. The 145 renewable energy lobbyists, for example, can provide priceless information about clean energy possibilities. Industrialists who argue for legislation, such as Jefferey Immelt of General Electric, too can lend enormous political capital to those Congressmen who find it difficult to argue for an aggressive cap and trade system.

But on the other hand, strong lobbyist involvement can remove intelligent debate from the mainstream. The lobbyist job is by default and elitist one. At its best it provides a manageable way of representing the plural views of society, and at its worst allows the most powerful and deep-pocketed view to dominate over those of the citizens. The lobbyists remind us that climate change is about business and is itself big business, but it is ultimately about the world’s human and non-human inhabitants today and tomorrow. These people and things, some not yet born or on the other side of the world, are ultimately what legislation on climate change is about and their views too much not be forgotten. I sincerely hope that this swelling of lobbyists does not encourage this from happening.

This chart, from the Center for Public Integrity website shows the conposition of the climate change lobbyists.