Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Curbing the lobbyists - but which ones?

(nb. I am not DK)

David Cameron's pledge to "curb the lobbying industry" has been widely welcomed by the pundits. Spam wants to shine “the light of transparency” on lobbying so that politics “comes clean about who is buying power and influence.” Sounds more like he's trying to divert the public's contempt away from politicians and onto those evil corporations but if it reduces bribery and keeps a few ex-ministers' snouts out of the trough, it can't be a bad thing. 

fakecharities.org has been shining the "light of transparency" on a certain type of lobbyist for some time. Unfortunately, it's not the state-funded pressure groups who are the target of the Tory purge, in fact they're delighted with the plan. Less access for business means more access for them.

David Miller of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency welcomed Mr Cameron’s admission that something needs to be done about lobbying.

But he added: “If they are serious about listening to ordinary people, the Conservative Party must pledge to introduce a mandatory register of lobbyists as soon as possible so that the public can see who is lobbying whom, and the extent to which national policies are being influenced by commercial forces.”

And what is the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency? A group of "ordinary people" trying to get their voice heard? Is it fuck. It's a coalition of predominantly windmill-worshipping, anti-capitalist lobby groups. They include War On Want, the Pesticide Action Network, Action Aid and Friends of the Earth, all of whom help create the illusion of public support for 'climate justice', big government and higher taxes. Just the kind of groups the political class like, then, and - with faith in the 'scientific consensus' dropping to a pathetic 26% - they need them more than ever. All four of them are, of course, funded by the European Commission.

The Alliance also includes Unlock Democracy (AKA Charter88) which is not even allowed to be a charity because of its campaigning activities, quite an achievement when you consider what the rest of them get up to. It includes the anarchist arseholes at Corporate Watch, as well as the mighty Greenpeace. And the whole thing is co-ordinated by Spinwatch, the blogging home of Andrew Rowell, the activist-journalist who wrote the non-peer reviewed article which resulted in Amazongate.

It is part of the wider Alliance for Lobbying Transparency & Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU), an organisation dominated by Friends of the Earth and other eco-campaigners, who monitor corporate lobbying and produce reports for the European Commission. The fox patrolling the chicken-coop, in other words. The EC, in turn, funds these groups to lobby itself:

In 2006 the EU gave more than 7.7m euros (£5.5m; $11.2m) to at least 40 environmental organisations to help them lobby in Brussels.

They included big campaign groups such as WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and FoE Europe.

You have, then, unelected European Commissioners throwing money at unelected pressure groups to lobby for policies which have minimal support amongst the public. This is the type of nice, honest, transparent lobbying that the politicians would like to see replace those dodgy deals done in smoke-filled smokefree rooms - the corporate elite replaced by the political elite.

As long as this cosy relationship between the state and its army of activists remains, Dave is in no position to complain that "a tiny percentage of the population craft legislation that will apply to one hundred per cent of the population." Whatever the merits of reforming the lobbying system, if it results in more power resting in the hands of the political class and its favoured pressure groups, it will merely substitute one set of vested interests for another. 

Any clamp-down on corporate lobbying must be accompanied by a clear-out of the parasitic NGOs who have thrived for over a decade. Since not a single one of them has political views that are even vaguely of the right, there is no chance of Labour ever stripping them of their ill-gotten gains. For any Conservative government it should be a no-brainer.

21 comments:

declineofthelogos said...

Hold on. Are you honestly suggesting that the government should strip SpinWatch of the grant it receives from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust because you don't like its members?

Are you suggesting that the government should strip the four charities you mention of their EU funding, over which it has little control?

Are you, in essence, blaming Labour for the actions of the EU and the actions of a charity, because you don't like Friends of the Earth?

This article is hopelessly confused. Are you regularly given to telling charities how they should spend their money? Can you provide evidence that the UK Government has actually funded the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust? Or are you just talking out of your arse because you're a corporate lobbyist? Since blogging counts as campaigning these days, if you're demanding transparency from your opponents, you have to supply it too.

The Filthy Smoker said...

What I'm saying is that neither the EU nor the government should fund lobby groups. At all. What the Joseph Rowntree Foundation wants to do with their money is, of course, their business.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a corporate lobbyist. Nor am I paid by Big Oil, Big Tobacco or Big Pharma. Hard though it may be to believe, not everyone needs to be paid for their opinions.

Devil's Kitchen said...

No, I think that my colleague is saying that:

a) environmental and charitable lobbyists are lobbyists too, and they should be listed along with corporate lobbyists

b) taxpayers' money should not go to lobbyists of any kind—and it should certainly not be given to lobbyists so that the lobbyists can lobby the government.

c) I personally believe that taxpayers' money should not go to charities, since that undermines the voluntary nature of charity, and corrupts the charity in receipt of the money

d) The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is not part of the government, so its cash can go to whom it likes

e) Friends of the Earth are a collection of cunts

f) Neither myself nor The Filthy Smoker are lobbyists, corporate or otherwise.

If you think that you have some evidence to the contrary, perhaps you would like to produce it?

DK

Roger Thornhill said...

This is a classic case of the Left bleating because it is not in charge.

Just as it bleats about "the elite", not because they want to end the concept of an elite, but because it is not "their" elite, an elite they can get an easy route into.

They do not want to end lobbying, just the "wrong kind", because "their" lobbying is for the good of the people. Comrades.

The sunlight of transparency will make them crumble into dust like the bloodsucking, undead vampires that they are.

declineofthelogos said...

In that case, isn't it rather incumbent on you to find an instance wherein any of the organisations you refer to have stated that they should be treated differently to corporate lobbyists with respect to any mooted lists?

It seems rather odd to say that lobbyists should never receive any taxpayers' money, unless you're also saying that any company that takes government contracts to, say, build a bridge should never be allowed to talk to the government. Money given (as the EU money appears to be) to aid in lobbying is of course wrong, but money given to pay for services is just that.

I repeat: the article is confused. You're trying to simultaneously claim that non-transparent NGO lobbying is the same as non-transparent corporate lobbying (which it is), and then claiming that it's different because, say, Friends of the Earth gets money for producing reports on lobbying for the EU and Balfour Beatty gets money for building schools. It's all just services rendered for a price.

I of course know you're not corporate lobbyists; but questioning whether you were certainly wound you up. It's almost like calling FoE a collection of cunts. For the record, I am a corporate lobbyist. It's awesome fun.

The Filthy Smoker said...

Companies who build bridges seldom register themselves as charities to campaign for more bridges to be built. The difference between outsourcing services and financing lobby groups is fairly clear - see fakecharities.org if you need it spelling out.

Groups like Friends of the Earth are treated differently to corporate lobbyists. They are given taxpayers' money. That's a pretty fucking significant difference.

To clarify, there are two problems here. One is big business giving the government money to get its support, the other is government giving lobbyists money to get their support. Why focus on one problem and not the other?

ScotsToryB said...

Strikes me, mate that 'declineofthelogos' sees itself as the new blog in town and will willingly apply the upset cart(sometimes I cannot resist)to to do bolshy bullshit just to make a name.

'It seems rather odd to say that lobbyists should never receive any taxpayers' money, unless you're also saying that any company that takes government contracts to, say, build a bridge should never be allowed to talk to the government.'

Aaaand the difference between a lobbyist and someone who is actually willing to put up their own money in a risk situation is what again?

'For the record, I am a corporate lobbyist. It's awesome fun.'

That's why fisking from the top down without reading what comes next is so pleasing: I can anticipate where you are going and read your argument like a 9 year old's Tarot.
Yer feckin obvious, mate.

STB.

p.s. I have a bridge for sale...

Anonymous said...

I dont think he's referring to civil engineering construction (bridge ,road ,SEWER).
Which as part of general infrastructure ,thus required.
He is referring to AGW scam ,action groups etc type lobbying.
In other word dumbfucks wasting money.

Not dumbfucks getting the wrong end of the stick ?

Dick Puddlecote said...

There are quite a few corporate charity defenders around tonight. Tory Radio has one too.

John A said...

Well, US President Obama has developed a way to cut down on lobbying as promised. He hires lobbyists as Government employees.

Mind you, not all lobbying is intrinsically bad. Like "propaganda" it has accrued a nasty connotation apart from its denoted definition.

Roue le Jour said...

The Tories lost the last election, not because the voters didn't like their policies, but because nobody believed they actually would cut taxes, etc.

Cameron would be well advised to avoid suggesting he's going to do six impossible things before breakfast, if he wants to be taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

Some of the lobbies, a good example would be ASH, booo hissss.
Are now actually government departments,for example some of the funding ASH booo hissss ,recieves is now from the DOH as well as the real lobbyists behind them Pharma.
So now we have to pay taxes to the very lowlife scum who are attacking us.
No longer a lobby are they ?
Shysters really.
How many other lobbies have now infiltrated government in this manner ?

declineofthelogos said...

So, you can't actually find an instance of SpinWatch claiming that ASH etc. should be excluded from the list of lobbyists?

fakecharities.org isn't something you can really base your arguments on, unfortunately. I'm willing to concede that public funds given to a group to publicly campaign for a change in the law is something that should be stopped (as I mentioned above), but that's not what fakecharities.org is actually looking at. It's looking at any charities that lobby government and also recieve taxpayers' money - but it doesn't specifically exclude money given by the government in exchange for services.

For example, Christian Aid recieves DFID funds via a PPA to promote the rights of HIV sufferers in third world countries, which is one of DFID's policy priorities. fakecharities fails to distinguish between this legitimate activity and the more morally dubious payments Christian Aid receives (also from DFID) to expand its supporter base in this country. Without understanding such nuances, I can only conclude it's more of a hysterical overreaction to the notion of government commissioning services from non-profit organisations without whom you don't agree than a genuine campaigning site.

You can demonstrate this by looking at the ASH article - it mentions how much money they receive from the DoH under Section 64 (of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968; haven't the Tories been in power since then?), but doesn't mention the killer fact that this is for a report which ASH claims is funded by Cancer Research. It's a clear example of what you're talking about, and it hasn't brought it up.

It's a grumble sheet, more than a campaign. If you want to effect change, try putting up a petition against that particular section of the law, or to exclude UK-based activity from DFID's PPAs. But that would involve actual work, rather than ranting.

By the way: using a site run by the owner of this site to promote your arguments on this site is rather poor form. At least the IPCC refers to other people's mistakes.

Also, ScotsToryB, given that you clearly don't understand that lobbying is how companies talk to government (or at least are incapable of writing a coherent sentence stating that), it's safe to dismiss you as a moron.

paul said...

I take it he doesnt mean getting rid of CFI and LFI then?

The Filthy Smoker said...

DOTL,

You're arguing with yourself here, mate. At no point did I say that Spinwatch wanted to exclude publicly funded lobbyists. That's your straw man.

I pointed you to fakecharities.org to save me from explaining again what I consider to be a fake charity ie. (1) takes money from the government, and (2) lobbies the government (did you read the About page?). That site reflects my views, not least because I helped DK set it up. It's not meant to be a campaign, it's a user-generated portal to provide a bit of transparency and save people the time of looking up these NGOs' accounts themselves.

Re: ASH - sorry, what point are you trying to make?

As for creating an online petition to bring about change, you are joking aren't you?

Anonymous said...

The only online petition I know of that actually rattled the government was the petition against Darlings road pricing.
Interesting when the only issue that actually got a large public response was the privacy of mobility and the stealth tax from that as well .

declineofthelogos said...

You said:
"Whatever the merits of reforming the lobbying system, if it results in more power resting in the hands of the political class and its favoured pressure groups, it will merely substitute one set of vested interests for another."
It's hard to see how a more transparent lobbying system will favour the NGOs you so despise, so it's fair to claim your rhetoric is designed to make your readers believe that SpinWatch is arguing for double standards. What a politician you are.

As I pointed out, fakecharities doesn't provide a balanced picture of spending - it includes all funds given by the government for the supply of services as well as monies given to aid in lobbying. This means, for completeness, it should include all for-profit organisations that supply government services too, otherwise you're guilty of double standards.

My ASH point is irrelevant if you're not trying to change the system, but given your last sentence I remain confident that you never will.

patrick said...

the anarchist arseholes at Corporate Watch

'anarchist' as a pejorative on a libertarian blog? Way to go, you uneducated fuckwit.

Roger Thornhill said...

@DOTL: "It's hard to see how a more transparent lobbying system will favour the NGOs you so despise"

Well David Millar from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency said

"and the extent to which national policies are being influenced by commercial forces"

Commercial forces, note. The issue here is about ALL forces. We need to be aware that in this transparency move we do not see a get-out or a separate, well obfuscated list for "charities" or that they are somehow treated differently. In the name of transparency, their incomes from the State should be right there, but I wonder if David Millar would be happy with that.

ChrisM said...

"This means, for completeness, it should include all for-profit organisations that supply government services too, otherwise you're guilty of double standards. "

Not really, because for-profit organisations do not claim to be charities. It would be strange to label an entity a "fake charity" when it never claims to be one.

DonavonPfeiffer Jr. said...

This argument is based on the wrong premise. The premise is "X type of lobbying is a disease". It isn't. It's a symptom. The power that governemnts have accrued unto themselves which then require that groups lobby the same governments is the problem. The fact that governments have so involved themselves in every facet of the citizen's and business's everyday lives and functions that we need representatives to look out for our interests on the one hand, or that groups use the governments to push their favorite policies on the rest of us on the other, is a problem with the governing class not the lobbies.The lobbies are a natural market reaction to the expansion of government. Strip the governemnt of the powers it should not have and lobbies will go away. Arguing about which lobbies should exist is asinine. There should be non need for them. We elect people to represent us. We shouldn't have to hire more to see that they do. And we shouldn't be able to hire people to see that the use of force is used to back our opinions. And governments shouldn't be able to hire outsiders to put a supportive public face on agendas the citizens don't want. But, again, these are symptoms of the runaway power that our governments have granted unto themselves not the actual problems themselves. And to try to solve them by enacting more laws to restrict them is to just exacerbate the problem by adding more powers to the government.