“Lobbying” is any direct or indirect communication with public officials, political decision-makers or representatives for the purposes of influencing public decision-making carried out by or on behalf of any organised group”.
“Lobbyists” can include not only professional lobbyists, but private sector representatives (in-house lobbyists), public affairs consultancies, representatives from NGOs, corporations, industry/professional associations, trade unions, think tanks, law firms, faith-based organisations and academics. Regulation should capture all who lobby professionally.
So, this definition purposefully excludes individual citizens lobbying on their own behalf. Instead, this is considered part of a normal healthy democratic process and not something which should be unduly regulated.
This definitions draws heavily on the Sunlight Foundation Lobbying Guidelines, the OECD Report on Progress made in implementing the OECD Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1908 (2010) on lobbying in a democratic society.
Transparency is crucial if there is any chance of public trust in politics being restored. Transparency of lobbying practices allows the public to have sufficient knowledge of (a) who is lobbying public representatives (b) on what issues they are being lobbied (c) when and how they are being lobbied (d) how much is being spent in the process (e) what is the result of these lobbying efforts.
Furthermore, it is important that the onus for transparency is placed on both the lobbyist and the public official/representative.
The right of participation is a cornerstone of the democratic process. And lobbying is one avenue for interest groups to be involved in the decisions that may affect them. Public policies however need to be balanced, effective, rational and to reflect the broader public interest. This requires transparency and public access to the decision-making and policy-making processes.
In order to be effective, transparency of lobbying must be embedded within a broader public sector integrity framework which mitigates the risks of conflicts of interest when important decisions are being taken. A robust ethical framework should exist binding the lobbyists (and companies) as well as the lobbying targets. Moreover, the onus for integrity should be placed on both lobbyists and public officials/representatives.
When regulating lobbying, transparency and integrity measures are crucial but they must be accompanied by rules that allow for equality of access to decision makers. This precondition is essential to fairness and pluralism in the political system. There need to be enough spaces in the system to allow for diverse participation and contribution of ideas and evidence by a broad range of interests. This is a guarantee for the formulation of policies, laws, and decisions which best serve society and broad democratic interests.