The “good” and “bad” lobbyists

by Christos Zampounis

When I lived for a period of time in Washington, as a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University, I had the opportunity to meet various lobbyists. Another worked for the infamous National Rift Association (N.R.A.), the gun lobby, another for a consulting firm hired by tobacco companies, and a third for a pharmaceutical company. As a complete ignoramus I remember asking them about the nature of their work, and I was struck by the emphasis in their answers, that it is a perfectly legal activity, the legality of which has been legislated by Congress itself. In the following years, I watched, like most of us, political thrillers, with secondary characters, mainly lobbyists who usually exceeded the limits of permissible transactions, with protagonists elected by the people, deputies, or senators. Hollywood always likes to reveal or create conspiracies for the enjoyment of the adoring public.

The news that there are lobbyists in Europe as well, which was widely spread after the arrest of MEP Eva Kaili, did not surprise me at all, because it is a simple introduction to the Old Continent of the American model. Is lobbying “bad”? Not at all, if we consider the successes of the Greek lobby in the US decision-making centers, especially in defense matters. Is lobbying “good”? Several times, yes. How else, for example, would so many laws for the protection of the Environment be passed if there was no pressure from the hundreds of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) dealing with the issue? Parenthetically important: yes, there are also incorruptible M.K.O. dealing with the subject. King Charles III of England, although he is not registered in the official list of 13,316 EU lobbying professionals, is considered an informal lobbyist, as long as he does not forget to ring his bell in every meeting with heads of state danger to save the planet. So what happened, to come to the issue that burns us, the so-called “Qatargate”, and they rushed to “crucify” the lobbyists? The answer seems to be as political as if the indictment turns out to be mafia, the leadership of the European Union decided that in view of the war in Ukraine and its energy needs it had to normalize its relations with the No. 2 supplier, worldwide, of LNG ( liquefied natural gas). Necessary gods are convinced. The order to vote on the corresponding bills came from above, so all MEPs, except Lacedaemonians, voted for them. The suitcases with the money in the hands of the father of the vice-president of the European Parliament and the other suspects who are detained remain to be proven where they come from. It may be from “bad” lobbyists, because – phew! – they exist too.