Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Letter From The Editor: Lobbyists

Food Safety News has not yet written the obituary for S. 510, the food safety bill.

Any bill that might garner as many as 90 votes in the 100-member U.S. Senate cannot be called dead until the body adjourns sine die.  So we are going to keep the discussion alive until the gavel comes down for that final time.

Not making assumptions about what a legislative body might do is a lesson you will learn if you ever spend time in that most hated profession: lobbyist.

This is the time of year when you cannot turn on a TV or radio without hearing some political ad beating up on lobbyists.

The public is not stupid, but there are topics upon which the public is misinformed.  Lobbying is one of those topics and it makes a great bogeyman this time of year for politicians taking unanswered cheap shots.

This is the time of year when I truly wonder what other profession would be willing to do this much for our democracy.

The ink is hardly dry on their election certificates before elected officials are soliciting lobbyists for contributions to be used in their next election.  With the money they’ve raised from lobbyists, these candidates for re-election then attack lobbyists in their political advertising.

Who else would put up with that?

Since the public has almost no understanding of what lobbyists do or the role they play, they are easy targets for the political consultants who make TV advertising.  These dirt bags have painted a picture of lobbyists that is almost impossible to overcome.

I’ve tried.

Start with the fact that lobbying is nothing more than the mechanism we use to exercise our right to petition the government.   

Whenever I discuss this with someone, I can usually name half dozen lobbies that represent him or her, but they usually don’t believe it. (“Oh, you did not know that AARP does more than sell you insurance?”)

I’ve also tried to make people understand that if it were not for lobbyists, most elected officials would never discuss a serious policy issue with anyone other than someone working for government.  Whether it is a lobbyist for a corporation, labor union, or nonprofit, it’s a needed outside perspective.

Also in the time compressed atmosphere that most policy decisions are made, few know or appreciate that the best lobbyists can and do argue their opponents side of the issue as well as their own.  It is a skill that saves time for elected officials.

Lobbyists come in both professional and amateur (citizen) models, and the required skill set is pretty much the same.   Both pro and amateur lobbyists know that if they are successful, they need to keep it to themselves because it is the elected official that gets to take the victory lap.

So before the final outcome is known, let’s all raise a glass to salute the pros and citizens who’ve taken up the food safety bill as a cause.  And while the Constitution never said anything about this being a fair or easy process, can somebody do something about all these damn ads?

© Food Safety News
  • I wonder if the Editor is suggesting that private individuals have the same amount of access as the Big Money lobbyists do?
    Raise a glass to blatant manipulation and deception?
    You keep the glass until there is truth in the toast.

  • Thanks, Dan, for the reminder.
    And, unfortunately, many of them know a lot more about what is going on in Washington or in the state capitals than do the news reporters covering the stories…present company excepted!

  • bill bradley

    I believe there is great merit in the discussions such as those raised by Senator Coburn of Oklahoma. In recent comments to the House attacks on Food Safety, Senator Coburn has pointed out real common sense issues that are flaws on S. 510. In his debate with Senator Reed of Nevada, Coburn pointed out not just the funding issues, but the serious gaps in S.51o that do nothing to address the problems illustrated by the Iowa egg contamination, hence gaps between USDA and FDA. While everyone wants the safe food, we the American people want government accountability.

  • bob

    “Politicians often portray lobbyists as a scourge on Washington.” M. Twain…
    It is good sport, kinda like shooting fish, politicans, lawyers, Custer, girlie men, etc. in a barrel – you can’t miss.
    Danny O’Flynn, not a war you can win. Best, your lobbyist Bob

  • Thanks, Dan, for the reminder.
    And, unfortunately, many of them know a lot more about what is going on in Washington or in the state capitals than do the news reporters covering the stories…present company excepted!

  • Michael Bulger

    Coburn’s argument that better communication is enough would be flawed. The properly trained inspectors need to be required to be on site more often.
    Additionally, his bill doesn’t address traceability, mandatory recall authority, school food, imports, foreign facility inspections, and a host of other important provisions.
    His budgetary concerns are blithe when faced with the amount of financial losses food-borne illnesses incur each year.