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Moyers on America . Capitol Crimes . Lesson Plan . Lobbying
FOR EDUCATORS > Lesson Plan: Lobbying
Source: "Content Knowledge" (http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/browse.asp) by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)
Civics, Standard 2: Understands the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited governments.
Level III, Benchmark 1: Knows some of the restraints placed on a limited government's power.Civics, Standard 4: Understands the concept of a constitution, the various purposes that constitutions serve, and the conditions that contribute to the establishment and maintenance of constitutional government.
Level IV, Benchmark 2: Understands how constitutions set forth the structure of government, give the government power, and establish the relationship between the people and their government.Civics, Standard 10: Understands the roles of voluntarism and organized groups in American social and political life.
Level IV, Benchmark 6: Knows the historical and contemporary role of various organized groups in local, state, and national politics.Civics, Standard 15: Understands how the United States Constitution grants and distributes power and responsibilities to national and state government and how it seeks to prevent the abuse of power.
Level IV, Benchmark 1: Understands how the overall design and specific features of the Constitution prevent the abuse of power by aggregating power at the national, state, and local levels to allow government to be responsive; dispersing power among different levels of government to protect individual rights, promote the common good, and encourage citizen participation; and using a system of checks and balances.Civics, Standard 28: Understands how participation in civic and political life can help citizens attain individual and public goals.
Level III, Benchmark 3: Understands how Americans can use the following means to monitor and influence politics and government at local, state, and national levels: joining political parties, interest groups, and other organizations that attempt to influence public policy and elections; voting; taking part in peaceful demonstrations; circulating and signing petitions.
Level IV, Benchmark 3: Knows the many ways citizens can participate in the political process at local, state, and national levels, and understands the usefulness of other forms of political participation in influencing public policy.Estimated Time
Backgrounder for Teachers
To prepare for this lesson, it is suggested that the following materials be reviewed:
Moyers on America 'Citizens Class:' Congressional Ethics
Moyers on America 'Citizens Class:' The Land of Lobby
THE WASHINGTON POST investigative report: Investigating Abramoff
This lesson assumes that students know how to write an essay and that they have some background on how civic participation can help them achieve specific goals.
1. As a class, brainstorm a list of strategies that citizens or organizations can use to influence how a legislative representative votes on a particular bill. Possible responses might include collecting signatures on a petition, demonstrating, writing or calling representatives, meeting with representatives, speaking at a town hall forum, etc. Ask students what types of messages are communicated to politicians through such actions. How might these activities benefit democracy?
2. Have students note that actions that seek to influence the defeat or passage of legislation are called, "lobbying." The right to conduct such activities is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which says citizens can, "petition the government for a redress of grievances."
3. Explain that frequently, lobbying activities are done by paid professionals - "lobbyists" - who understand the system and often have established relationships with key legislators. In addition to explaining to legislative representatives how potential laws might affect their clients, professional lobbyists also hope to influence the legislative process by attending or hosting fundraisers for candidates, by making political contributions and by offering other perks.
4. Show the class the graphic Paying for the Party: Top Lobbying Spending 1998-2005 (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/infographics/pop_lobbying.html). Ask students to describe what trend they see in the table showing total dollars spent per year. Have them figure out what was spent on lobbying per month in 2005. Explain that since the year 2000, the number of registered lobbyists in Washington D.C. has doubled to nearly 35,000, which is around 65 lobbyists for every member of Congress.
5. Tell students that ethics rules govern the interactions between congressmen and lobbyists in an effort to keep these elected representatives independent of special interests. Write the following examples of these rules on the board:
After watching the clip, discuss how former Representative DeLay's abuses of power affected the democratic process. You may also wish to let students know that Abramoff has been given a prison sentence for his corrupt lobbying activities, and that DeLay stepped down as Majority Leader after being indicted for conspiring to violate Texas campaign finance laws.
7. Conclude the activity by asking students to write an essay describing the pros and cons of lobbying and the proper role of this practice in a democracy.
Check student understanding of the concepts in this lesson by giving students credit for their participation in class discussions, and by grading the writing and analysis provided in their essays on lobbying.
Investigating Abramoff: A Special Report
U.S. House of Representatives: Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
Cari Ladd, M.Ed., is an educational writer with a background in secondary education and media development. Previously, she served as PBS Interactive's Director of Education, overseeing the development of curricular resources tied to PBS programs, the PBS TeacherSource Web site, and online teacher professional development services. She has also taught in Maryland and Northern Virginia.