'World News' Attacks Banking Lobbyist at DNC Convention

     A lot of times, the word “lobbyist” has a negative connotation. In fact, ABC’s August 26 “World News with Charles Gibson” used the word to smear a whole group of people without providing any facts to prove wrongdoing.


     The broadcast included a segment criticizing lobbyist activities at the Democratic National Committee’s convention in Denver, but didn’t offer any rebuttal as to why lobbying is a legitimate function of an industry.


     “While Democrats are meeting inside this convention hall, there are plenty of parties going on outside,” anchor Charles Gibson said. “Corporations, union officials and lobbyists are throwing parties morning, noon and night – all to win the influence of members of Congress, who are here in great number. Despite a law designed to stick a fork in lobbyist activities at these conventions, they have found new ways to spoon-feed their powerful friends.”


     To prove this point, ABC correspondent Brian Ross crashed an event hosted by the banking lobby in Denver, to show an alleged “Money Trail” between lobbyists and elected officials.


     “For banking lobbyists and executives at this Denver hotel last night, the actual convention just a few blocks away was just a sideshow to their lavish gathering,” Ross said. “Even the emotional speech by Sen. [Ted] Kennedy did not stop the festivities. The bankers’ jazz band kept playing and the waiters serving. For many, this is the real business of the convention – one of the scores of parties to honor key Democrats who control legislation directly affecting top corporations. But bankers were not happy to see ABC News arrive.”


     The segment accused lobbyists of exploiting “loopholes” to get around the laws Congress has enacted against lobbying. “It’s ethics reform with a very big wink and a nod from the Democratic Party’s top elected officials,” Ross said.


     But Ross spoke in generalizations – suggesting Congress included loopholes in its ethics laws to “keep the gravy train rolling.” He didn’t name the lobbyists behind the event he crashed, or the elected officials being “honored.” And he didn’t explain how the targets of his report were guilty of any crimes or ethical breaches.


     But as Michael Barrone explained in a U.S. News & World Report column June 12, lobbyists perform a legitimate and legal function with constitutional protections, a fact “World News” failed to recognize.


     “Behind this stigmatization of lobbyists is the notion that the failure to produce legislation in the public interest stems from the existence of lobbyists,” Barrone wrote. “Which is obviously nonsense. We couldn’t abolish lobbying without repealing the First Amendment, which gives all of us, even those who are paid to do it, the right to ‘petition the government for a redress of grievances.’ And the government could not sensibly do business without lobbyists.”


     And Barrone noted ultimately Congress can enact legislation that affects an entire industry from top to bottom, which includes real people – thus they deserve to have some representation in matters of politics.


     “It is a simple fact of life that when Congress writes laws and the executive branch writes regulations that channel vast flows of money – and laws and regulations that have vast moral implications – citizens affected by those words are going to try to make sure they’re written the way they want,” Barrone wrote. “They’re going to hire the best people they can find to do so. They want lobbyists with connections – and with expertise. They can help lawmakers understand how the words they write will affect ‘real Americans.’”