Media’s fascination with lobbyists continues, most recently with the Jacksonville Business Journal reporting breathlessly on the amount spent by lobbyists.
This is “news” only by a stretch of the imagination. It could more accurately be called a conflict of interest.
The story relates that various lobbyists spend X amount of dollars while doing their jobs.
The amount doesn’t matter. If it is more than the typical reader has in his pocket, it sounds like a lot.
Actually, it isn’t.
Businesses and organizations spend money for lobbyists to protect themselves when the Florida Legislature is in session. Spending a few thousand dollars to keep from losing millions is smart, not evil.
People don’t realize how much of the legislative business involves struggles between interests trying to gain an advantage over rivals.
The years I spent covering the legislature there were ongoing fights between lawyers and insurance companies, doctors and nurses, optometrists and ophthalmologists, banks and credit unions, etc.
Lobbyists for all those parties are on hand during the session, closely tracking bills and pleading their cases with their legislators, which they have a constitutional right to do.
Newspapers are rivals of lobbyists in this sense: Editorial writers want to be the only ones telling legislators what they should do. But they rarely have all the facts that the competing lobbyists can provide the legislators.
The truth is, because of that competition, lobbyists almost never lie to legislators. Their competitors will quickly reveal the information to be untrue if they do.
As a reporter, I always found lobbyists helpful. One would tell me his organization’s side and another would tell me the other side. And they are experts on the issues they follow.
Lobbyists are heavily regulated. They perform a public service. They are no more a threat to the public interest than the media barons who criticize them relentlessly through editorials, columns and editorials disguised as news stories.