The Lobby Lobby

One hears a lot of complaints about lobbyists from the likes of McCain, Clinton and Obama this election season.  But did you know that lobbying was protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States?  I didn't.  Well, Charles Krauthammer will set me straight.  My intrusions are in bold.

Everyone knows the First Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. How many remember that, in addition, the First Amendment protects a fifth freedom — to lobby? [No way–I don't believe  you]

Of course it doesn't use the word lobby [Phew–I thought I forgot my rights!]. It calls it the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Lobbyists are people hired to do that for you, so that you can actually stay home with the kids and remain gainfully employed rather than spend your life in the corridors of Washington.  [I wonder where I can get one of these lobbyists]

To hear the candidates in this presidential campaign, you'd think lobbying is just one notch below waterboarding [we thought waterboarding was ok with you Charles], a black art practiced by the great malefactors of wealth to keep the middle class in a vise and loose upon the nation every manner of scourge: oil dependency, greenhouse gases, unpayable mortgages and those tiny entrees you get at French restaurants. [He's being serious–this isn't a caricature or a straw man]

Lobbying is constitutionally protected, but that doesn't mean we have to like it all [that's a relief, because I was about to embrace every single instance of "lobbying" fully in the spirit of the law rather than sophistical equivocations meant to cloud the issue.]  Let's agree to frown upon bad lobbying, such as getting a tax break for a particular industry. Let's agree to welcome good lobbying — the actual redress of a legitimate grievance — such as protecting your home from being turned to dust to make way for some urban development project.

And with this last claim we're back to square one.  When people scream about "lobbying" this election season, they mean the kind of lobbying of special interests purchasing favors and access–bad lobbying.  Just because you call it "lobbying" does not ipso fatso mean its protected by the constitution.  That would be to insist on the relevance of a general rule where it obviously doesn't apply.  But I guess Krauthammer has a right to do that.  It's a free country.