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The birth of modern political lobbying


29 April 2013

Even in the United States we do not completely understand the scope of lobbying, to say nothing of its manifestations and impacts, says Professor Burdett Loomis.
Even in the United States we do not completely understand the scope of lobbying, to say nothing of its manifestations and impacts, says Professor Burdett Loomis.

In this special Sydney Ideas lecture, Professor Burdett A Loomis, the Fulbright Flinders Distinguished Chair for 2012, will discuss the birth of modern lobbying in the United States, while at the same time touching on the similarities within the Australian system.

Professor Loomis wrote an opinion piece in today's Sydney Morning Herald on the topic, titled 'Lobbyists vital, but they must be accountable'.

Corporate lobbying groups that aim to influence government decision-making have been growing in number over the past 20 years, both in Australia and United States.

In his role this year as the Flinders Fulbright Distinguished Chair Professor Burdett A Loomis, from the University of Kansas, has been researching the scope and nature of the Australian lobbying industry.

In the US, a separation-of-powers structure, a disproportionate Senate, and a powerful Supreme Court, have made it difficult for American presidents to enact their policy agendas, or to respond quickly to major policy problems.

Professor Loomis said: "President Barack Obama has attacked the Washington lobbyists, seeking to place limitations on their interactions with government and their recruitment to it.

"Still, even in the United States, where this growth first emerged and has developed in the most sophisticated ways, we do not completely understand the scope of lobbying, to say nothing of its manifestations and impacts."

In this lecture he will trace the beginnings of the lobbying system in the United States, emphasising how the framers created a state that embraced the politics of interests, largely giving them free rein, within a system that often worked to their benefit.

"When the framers crafted the US Constitution in 1787, and subsequently drew up the first 10 amendments in the ratification process," he said, "they created a political system that included many avenues for influencing policies, and also produced first-amendment guarantees (speech, petition, association) that strongly protected lobbying."

Professor Burdett A Loomis, from the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas, and has published widely in the area of American politics. His books include The US Senate: from deliberation to dysfunction (ed, 2011); Guide to interest groups and lobbying (2011); and Republic on trial: the case for representative democracy (co-author, 2002).


Event details

What: The birth of modern lobbying: the Anglo-American experience from the late 1600s to 1800, a Sydney Ideas talk by Professor Burdett A Loomis

When: 6 to 7pm, Monday 29 April

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free

Register now


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