Good Essay On Midterm Exam
Lobbying has tremendous impacts on the American political system, as it can shape which issues are brought to the floor of Congress. It is very common for politicians who lose office to enter the lobbying field following their political career. Lobbyists can represent virtually any company or cause, so it would appear that groups with the most resources would likely have the most influence. For this reason, lobbying efforts need to be regulated, and Congress has done just that. Starting in 1995, Congress passed the Lobbying and Disclosure Act which tried to reform the lobbying efforts for more accountability. This law was modified about a decade later in order to try to reduce the amount of perceived corruption in the political process.
The 1995 Lobbying and Disclosure Act first redefined what a lobbyist is. The act defines a lobbyist as someone who spends 20 percent of more of their time lobbying on behalf of an organization. They do allow an exception for organizations that lobby on their own behalf and spend less than $22,500 per six months. Next, the bill defines what consists of an official “lobbying contact.” An official lobbying contact is any oral or written communication with the legislative or executive branch concerning the formulation, modification, and administration of policies. It also includes advice on nominations requiring Senate confirmation. The reasons for these definitions are because the point of the bill was to get lobbyist groups to report to the clerk of the House of Representatives. This would result in more transparency so Congress and the people would know who was lobbying Congress and could respond if corruption was suspected.
About ten years later, in 2006 Congress decided to amend the 1995 lobbying bill because it did not go far enough to stop the potential corruption in lobbying efforts. The 2006 bill, known as the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, was signed by President Bush. It allowed for more disclosure concerning lobbying funding and activity, as well as placed more restrictions for gifts of Congress and their staff. Lobbyists would be required to file quarterly reports, instead of twice a year, as well as disclosing donations to candidates. Indirect lobbying, previously defined as lobbying less than 20 percent of the time, would now also be reported. Any gifts or sports tickets given to Congressmen on behalf of lobbyists would also need to be made public. This change was made due to the fact that lobbyists were giving many free gifts to Congressmen, as an attempt to bypass the reporting, as it was not actual cash. Finally, the change in 2006 impacted ethics laws, as Congressmen were not allowed to negotiate about future employment before a successor to their office had been nominated or appointed.
As these two lobbyist bills show, they have a great impact on Congress and it can be very hard to properly regulate. The initial 1995 bill was not all that effective as it left too many loopholes in forms of gifts and the 20 percent rule. Indirect lobbying was very common. In 2006, the law tries to regulate all forms of gifts, which would be very hard to effectively enforce, especially if the gifts come in the form of sports tickets. Therefore, these bills will likely not reduce the perceived corruption. In fact, while President Obama campaigned on more transparency, he too failed to live up to this message despite these two bills. Most of his efforts have failed in legislation, and his administration has certainly not been as transparent as he said they would be.
2) September 11, 2001 was a transforming event on the history of the United States. Not only was it one of the most terrible foreign attacks on American soil, but it also sparked a major change in the defense department. Americans lived in fear of further terror attacks, and in light of this, Congress and President Bush signed the Patriot Act. This act, fully known as “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001,” was an attempt to increase surveillance, detention, and seizures. In order to protect the nation, Congress and President Bush agreed the a few personal liberties had to be given up to prevent further terrorist acts, which led to much criticism.
The bill increases the federal government’s powers in a variety of ways. First, it enhances domestic security against terrorism. It creates funding for Terrorist Screening Centers, and further preventative services administered by the FBI. The most controversial parts of the bill concern the governments increased abilities for surveillance and wire tapping. This basically means the government can intercept all forms of communication if it is deemed relevant to terrorism. They are also allowed to share this information among government agencies. The Patriot Act put into effect upgraded border protection up north, as well as enhancing the immigration process as a whole. The Attorney General was allowed the power to detain anyone deemed to engage in terrorist activities. All together, the Patriot Act enhanced all preventative measures of defense against terrorism, but at the expense of personal liberty and freedom.
The Patriot Act has been one of the most controversial bills in the last few years. Many groups, such as the ACLU have deemed that the government has no right to collect and potentially seize all this information on the citizens. No longer do people have the ability to communicate without the government potentially recording or viewing it. America has been said to be a free country, but the now the basic right of free communication appears to be at risk. While the government claims it just stores the information and is not used unless there is a direct terrorist threat, many people believe this is not the case. Furthermore, the government can detain anyone suspected of terrorism without due process, and in light of the recent torture report released by Senator Feinsten, the scope of governmental abuse was fully evident.
There have been other events recently, which have sparked further outcry at how much freedom has been lost. The NSA scandal with Eric Snowden is one example where the extent of how much power the Patriot Act gave the government is shown. The NSA can easily single out a phone or computer and view all of its activity. The question this raises is how much value does this surveillance add? The government is not transparent in how it uses this information, which is why there is so much outrage about the loss of personal freedom. No structure was put into place to limit this power, and because of this, there will always be those who feel the Patriot Act goes much too far in giving power to protect the people.
Jenks, Rosemary. "The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001: A Summary of the Anti-Terrorism Law's Immigration-Related Provisions." Center for Immigration Studies. December 1, 2001. Accessed January 31, 2015. http://cis.org/USAPatriotAct-ImmigrationRelatedProvisions.
Eggen, Dan. "The Influence Industry: Obama's Ban on Lobbyist Bundlers Has Unclear Prospects." Washington Post. February 1, 2012. Accessed January 31, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-influence-industry-obamas-ban-on-lobbyist-bundlers-has-unclear-prospects/2012/01/30/gIQAYqsmiQ_story.html.
Birnbaum, Jeffrey. "Senate Passes Lobbying Bill." Washington Post. March 30, 2006. Accessed January 31, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/29/AR2006032902424.html.
Tenenbaum, Jeffrey. "Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995: A Summary and Overview for Associations - Whitepapers." ASAE. Accessed January 31, 2015. http://www.asaecenter.org/Resources/whitepaperdetail.cfm?ItemNumber=12224.
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