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Ethical lobbying is not an oxymoron.

Like it or not, lobbying is important to the legislative process. Although the public may view lobbying negatively, not all lobbyists are paid hired guns. They can be average citizens who are simply expressing their views.

One thing is certain: The way lobbying is done affects the ethical culture of the institution.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between the growth of lobbying and its effects on how citizens view government, according to "The Ethics of Lobbying," a handbook from the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

"As public participation in politics has declined, the power and influence of lobbyists have increased," the authors write. "Public confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of ... government is eroding."

The lobbyist industry is concerned about this trend. The American League of Lobbyists, a national organization for lobbyists and public policy professionals, updated its Code of Lobbying Ethics in 2010 to more thoroughly outline the guidelines and describe the standards for conduct.

These guidelines include conducting lobbying activities with honesty and integrity, avoiding conflicts of interest, educating the public about lobbying, and exhibiting proper respect for government institutions. Members of the league forfeit their membership if found guilty of a moral crime or of violating a law directly related to any professional lobbying or political campaign activity.

In addition, the league offers the Lobbying Certification Program, which consists of 11 classes that cover essential elements of lobbying, including ethics.

Many state lobbying organizations use this model or have adopted similar codes. The Tennessee Lobbying Association's Standards of Conduct includes a challenge to lobbyists to preserve and advance public trust by always acting "in the highest ethical and moral manner in their dealings with all parties."

"Our code is more than words on paper," says Howard Marlowe, executive director of the American League of Lobbyists. "It reflects the day-to-day challenges of our profession that require the conduct of each of our members to be above reproach. That's a tough standard, but it's meant to be that way."

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Author:Kerns, Peggy
Publication:State Legislatures
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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