Lobbying is often scorned, and commonly considered an unethical practice of influencing lawmakers. Even though there are thousands of lobbyists working at all levels of government for every conceivable interest group, it is corporations that often receive the most wrath.

For example, Barack Obama brags: “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists – and won.”John McCain has been criticized for being anti-lobby while at the same time courting the advice of several corporate lobbyists; but he’s quick to wash his hands of this hypocrisy, saying, “At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust.”

But petitioning the government either as an interest group, private citizen, or corporation, is a fundamental right explicitly enumerated in the petition clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law…. abridging…the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

And according to the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, lobbying is considered a form of petition (with no guarantee that the lobbyist will get what he wants):

“Lobbyists try to persuade government officials either to support or oppose various policy issues. Therefore, lobbying can be considered a form of petitioning the government for redress of grievances, subject to protection under the First Amendment’s petition clause. Although there has not been a great deal of judicial analysis on First Amendment protections afforded to lobbying, the courts have carved out several parameters. First, the petition clause does not grant a lobbyist the absolute right to speak to a government official nor does it grant a lobbyist the right to a hearing based on his or her grievances. In addition, the clause does not create an obligation for a government official to take action in response to a grievance. Finally, any statement made while a lobbyist petitions a government official does not receive greater protection than any other expression protected by the First Amendment.”

So, with the political bias against corporate lobbying, how are companies supposed to survive when politicians attempt to make laws and regulations that threaten their businesses? Are they just supposed to shut up and accept any capricious violation of their property rights?!

Because there is no separation of state and economics in America—resulting in the mixed capitalist-socialist economy we have today—it is imperative that the right to petition government be upheld. It may be the only way, albeit indirect, to fight for property rights.

While some interest groups and companies improperly lobby for government handouts and preferences, and play the infamous “pork-barrel” game, this is not because the right of petition is wrong, but because the entanglement of government and the economy is wrong.

The essential point is this: politicians’ flagrant disregard of the First Amendment right to petition is symptomatic of not only their power lust, but their arrogant disdain for the concept of individual rights, property rights and government’s proper role as servant to the people.

And the “people” includes the companies which create the wealth and the necessities of our daily life. If politicians legislate them out of existence directly by regulations or indirectly by limiting their right to petition, then government will truly have total power over the economy–and you and me.

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