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?