Daily Video

May 21, 2008

What Do Lobbyists Do?

In this video, the NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill talks with two experts about the role of lobbying in the presidential campaigns and government – a hot topic this election season.

Lobbyists are hired by all types of people and industries to influence how members of Congress act. While they can’t pay for votes, they can donate to campaigns and help lawmakers learn about issues they vote on.

Int he 2008 presidential campaign, Republican nominee John McCain has dismissed members of his campaign for being tied to lobbying. Democratic nominee Barack Obama has repeatedly argued that if elected, he would reduce the influence lobbyists have on the federal government.

In this segment, a lobbyist and a consumer advocate debate what role lobbyists should have in campaigns and government.


“You can’t ask a family or a nurse from California to fly here and spend as much time as we do lobbying on a particular issue. That’s why they belong to their national associations.” – Paul Miller, American League of Lobbyists

“Let’s ask why we don’t have health care and let’s ask why we don’t have lower gas prices. Because the lobbyists have stopped it. Look what the auto industry did on fuel economy. Look what the American Medical Association and the insurance industry have done on health care. For fifty years, we haven’t had health care in this country because of lobbyists.” – Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen

Warm Up Questions

1. What is a lobbyist?

2. How do people try to influence their lawmakers?

Discussion Questions

1. Paul Miller argues that people who donated money to Barack Obama’s campaign are the same as people who hire lobbyists? Do you agree? Why or why not?

2. Obama and McCain have distanced themselves from lobbyists during the campaign. Why are they doing this? Do you think they will reject lobbyists if elected?

3. Why are lobbyists always involved in campaigns and governing? Why is it so hard for politicians to ignore them?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

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