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Date: 2012-Jul-30           Author: Barry Shatzman
Hi... i'm Barry Shatzman, co-founder and executive director of Lobby99. Even if you don't know me, i know we have a few things in common. We both make less than $1 million a year, and neither of us has many more millions in the bank. Oh, there are some who do. But they make up less than 1 percent of all Americans. But we're both among the 99 percent who don't.
That in itself isn't a problem. Everyone is entitled to enjoy the money they fairly earn. The problem comes when someone uses all that money to influence elected officials to make laws that make it easier for them to accumulate even more money.
Bribery, of course, would be illegal. And, just like you, they don't have the time to schedule meetings with several hundred representatives and senators. Nor do they have the time to find out about every committee meeting where issues related to their businesses might be discussed. Or to wait in line for limited seating at those meetings.
They do two things. The first is they make hefty contributions toward candidates' election campaigns. The second is they hire lobbyists to influence legislation in ways that benefit them - usually at the expense of the rest of us. It's perfectly legal, as anyone has the right (and even the responsibility) to discuss issues with the people elected to represent them.
The problem is, if you want your fair share of influence, you have to hire a lobbyist too. But you're lucky if you can afford a nice place to live, tasty and healthy food, health care, a college education for you or your children, and some luxuries such as vacations. And even if you could afford to hire a lobbyist with the spare money you have lying around, that lobbyist wouldn't have very much influence, because you're only one person and you aren't making huge campaign contributions as leverage.
I felt it was hopeless too when i had that thought. But then i came up with another one. No matter how many lobbyists a corporation has, and no matter how much money they contribute to campaigns, at the end of the day it still takes individual people to vote for them or their competitor. So the trick is to get those voters to vote for the people who truly represent their interests.
That's where we come in! We make it easy for everyone (including you) to understand issues quickly and easily - so they can see exactly whose interests their elected representatives are working toward.
But you don't even have to wait until the next election. Once you understand an issue, why not let your representatives know that? We make that easy too! If enough people do that, your representative will realize he has a more important interest to represent. In other words - the most effective lobbyist is YOU!
That's how our system of democracy was intended to work. But it's become more broken and more corrupt by the year. You know if you just sit back and watch it will only get worse. But part of the corruption has been to frustrate your efforts - by tactics such as obfuscating information and making it harder to vote.
And that's exactly the problem we're working to fix. But here's the thing. We can't do it. You have to do your part. The good thing is we make it easy (and even enjoyable) for you to do.
Take a look at our site. Especially our About page. We hope you'll see that by contributing just $5, spending a few minutes a day (yes, that's all it takes) reading our explanations of issues, and sending a quick note to your representatives, you will improve your life by making the people you elect to represent your interests actually do that.