Advocacy is Guaranteed by the Constitution

We agree that decisions about how Recovery Act dollars are spent should be based on the merits and that maximizing job creation, making health care affordable, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, and other projects that manifest "enduring benefits" to taxpayers must take priority. We don't, however, believe that the best way to achieve these goals is by cutting registered lobbyists out of the democratic process.

President Obama's recent memorandum that bans a registered lobbyist from participating in a conversation with a federal official over the Recovery Act and relegates his expertise to a bare written communication might appeal to the cynics, but it is certainly the wrong approach. If the Recovery Act has any hope of success, it will be due in no small part to the vetting and analysis of ALL of the options on the table. Sometimes we forget that registered lobbyists represent all of the divergent interests in the country - they are not free agents. We also think transparency is a good thing and if a written record of the interaction between the lobbyist and government official helps to restore public trust, we're all for that. Good lobbyists can stand behind their case; if the project has merit it can stand up to such scrutiny. The President's disclosure requirement seems onerous, but it's a small price pay to preserve our democratic process in these troubled and cynical times.

Advocacy isn't just a right guaranteed by the constitution. When done with transparency, professionalism and the highest measure of integrity, advocacy and lobbying actually improve public policy with ideas put forth by those who have spent whole careers becoming expert in their subject matter. It's sad that the President is responding to the voices of cynics who are drowning out reasonable citizens today. The Bryce Harlow Foundation, by supporting the next generation of professional advocates through its Fellows program and other educational programs, will continue to make the case that the public good is served when its voices are heard, even when those voices are represented by paid, professional advocates. The Recovery Act's success also depends on the best ideas generated from those robust voices and we call on the President to modify his order to allow registered lobbyists to help contribute solutions for one of America's most troubling times in history.

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