Towards a More Democratic, Modern Lobbying Process

American democracy faces a fundamental challenge. The legislative process is increasingly overwhelmed by lobbyists, particularly those representing large corporations and business associations. These lobbyists overwhelm congressional offices and their increasingly stretched-too-thin policy staff. As a result, narrow business interests tend to wield disproportionate influence in Washington. 

Business power is not a new issue, but the amount of political activity on behalf of large corporations today is truly unprecedented, especially in comparison to the shrinking resources Congress allocates for its own policy staff. The $2.6 billion in reported annual corporate lobbying spending is now more than the $2 billion combined budget for the entire Senate ($860 million) and the entire House ($1.18 billion). 

While resources are not destiny, they do matter. They determine which perspectives make it to key decision-makers, and which perspectives don’t. They shape which policy choices are possible, and which policy choices are impossible. 

POST-MAP-ASK: Towards a More Democratic, Modern Lobbying Process looks at the ways in which the chaotic legislative lobbying process amplifies the resource imbalances, overwhelms congressional staffers, and influences public policy outcomes. The report makes the case for a process that ensures more accountability, more transparency, and better representation for a more diverse group of citizens. 

Authors Lee Drutman and Christine Mahoney propose a new system for advocacy: POST, MAP, and ASK. 

  • By Post, Drutman and Mahoney suggest that advocacy groups should post their policy positions and papers to website maintained by the Library of Congress. 
  • By Map, they refer to a process during which the Library of Congress would map out the positions, creating a tool for both congressional offices and the general public to easily see who stands where. 
  • By Ask, they mean that relevant congressional committees would then ask for comments from groups that are missing. 

Read the full report here.




Christine Mahoney is the author of Failure and Hope: Fighting for the Rights of the Forcibly Displaced and Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia. 

Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the program on political reform at New America. He is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying (Oxford University Press, 2015).