The term „lobby„, in its political acceptance, seems to have been used for the first time in 1829, in the phrase „lobby-agent„, appointing a person who was paid for privileges and who, for this purpose, frequented the corridors from the buildings where the normative acts were issued in Albany. Later, Thurlow Weed, together with his colleagues, made it an accredited profession and substantiated the methods by establishing notoriety.
After all, lobby was initially accepted as a practice of representing a single person, natural or juridical, (19th century), evolved to try to advocate for a group interests (the first half of the sec. XX), then, it has changed itself into representing, again, fragmented and specialized interests, giving birth to a phenomenon that was called the rise of the direct participation of interest groups.
Nowadays, lobby is limited only to the activity of trying to influence only those which have powers within the legislative power, legislators and members of their teams, provided they also refer to reflect a point of view related to a certain normative act and, if the communication process is to the public, then it must be followed by a „call to action”. This urge to action is an important aspect, which makes the public debate on a question of law impossible to be considered as a lobby, as long as no such request is issued.
The difference between undue influence and advocacy
As you can see, the relationship between advocacy activity and the peddling of influence involves some major differences.
First, those involved in advocacy do not intend to obtain money or other benefits, following their approach, but implementing their strategy, motivated to rectify a factual situation, which affects a large number of people or to prevent the multiplication of identified problem cases. In the context of the undue influence, obtaining some material or other advantages of nature, is the essential characteristic, without which the crime cannot survive.
The character of the advocacy activity is, by its very nature, prone to visibility as much as possible. In this sense, the promoters of this endeavor intend, and do everything possible, as the idea or cause for which strives to reach the public attention as quickly and accurately as possible, in order to mobilize as many people as possible. Therefore, the public character of the debates and the involvement of supporters in the fields of activity as diverse as it is, are essential points in the success of the entire advocacy process. In contrast, the perpetrators of the undue influence are interested in having their facts known by a circle as small as possible.
Due to the humanitarian nature of the advocacy approach, this process is being carried out by usually in connection with the medical and social assistance fields. In general, workers in these fields (doctors, nurses, psychologists, sociologists and social workers) feel the need to intervene on behalf of the disadvantaged, who cannot fight, bearing in mind that the step they initiate will correct an existing factual situation and will help, not only those whose problems are known, but also others who are in similar situations and, what more importantly, it will change the way authorities and communities report, so that the problems that they do not appear.
In antithesis to such ideals, peddling of influence implies the satisfaction of one momentary interest, of particular eminence, regardless of the repercussions that such a fact it can have them on a social level.
Peddling of influence versus lobby
Unlike advocacy, which is a clear step delimited by the peddling of influence, the situation changes when we think about lobby. Due to the definition formulated by the Romanian legislator in the draft of the Romanian lobby law, these two can be considered concepts which are quite close, in supposed to be taken actions and in meaning. Such a situation is generated, first of all, by the phrase „claim, receiving or accepting the promise of money or other benefits, directly or indirectly, for oneself or for another” of the peddling of influence definition, which reminds some partially about the lucrative nature of the lobby. This definition, with a very broad spectrum of actions, denotes the clear intention of the issuer of the normative act, in this case the Parliament, to protect the prestige of the public institutions of any form of suspicion regarding honestly civil servants.
On the other hand, lobby has major differences from the peddling of influence because it can be firmly stated that it can only be materialized in relation to civil servants, who exercise their duties in the institutions that fall within the sphere of legislative power, but not in relation to those who operate in public institutions, which are related to the exercise by the state of executive and judicial powers. Lobbying can only be undertaken in connection with creation, modification, suspension, extension or cancellation of a normative act.
Likewise, the lobby cannot be included in the category of secret or discrete actions, as it is the case of most of the facts that can be categorized as peddling of influence. This is mainly due to one of the defining characteristics of the lobby – call to action.
Finally, the lobbyist cannot be assimilated to the crime of peddling of influence since it has neither and cannot claims that it has influence on some decision makers within the legislative power. Such a thing, at least within the Romanian legislative system, would be very difficult, because the laws are the result of the debates in a collegiate forum.
The undue influence appears to us as a crime on its own, with a very broad sphere of understanding of facts that presuppose the real or imaginary influence of to civil servants, so that there is no doubt about the possibility of incriminating such illegal acts. This state of affairs has its source in the criminal policy of the Romanian state, which is intended to protect, in this way, the prestige of public institutions, so that their authority within the Romanian society is one importance.
With regard to the lobby and advocacy efforts, it can be concluded that these are the ones that they must be carried out in a transparent manner, involving a large number of people, and which are distinguished by the fact that they are directed against normative acts or against modalities of implementation of public programs or policies with general validity. In other words, the initiators of such actions are focused on changes related to the regulation of certain realities, which affect a large number of people, while the peddling of influence mainly refers to the particular situations they hold, most of them times, from the sphere of executive and judicial power, and less from the legislative process.