On July 4, 1776, leaders from the thirteen North American colonies signed the fateful Declaration of Independence, effectively cutting ties to the British empire. This declaration acted as the impetus for a longshot rebellion based on Democratic ideals. The one that stood out to the founding fathers was voting. They, and the people they represented were sick of being taxed without any say. A few years later, the constitution was drafted with a goal of creating a federal that worked of, for, and by the people. Most Americans know the story. Along with the story come oft repeated idioms and core values like “free country,” “rule of law,” “freedom of speech,” “equality,” and “opportunity.” All of these values make up a simplistic summary of our constitution, a summary many refer to as the American Dream.
Unfortunately, the founding fathers were unable to foresee America’s future, and in many ways, subsequent generations failed them. America saw ethnic cleansing under president Andrew Jackson. America bled through four years of civil war. America profiled Asian Americans during world war two and illegally jailed imprisoned them in internment camps. America starved through a great depression and recession brought on because of reckless behavior by the richest Americans. Through all these injustices, however, the American Dream has limped on, beaten and bruised, but still alive. In fact, 63% of Americans believe they are living this dream, according to CNBC. (https://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/04/american-dream-is-not-dead.html)
This fact does not warrant a celebration, however. In reality, over a third of Americans believe the American Dream is dead. While there are many aspects to the American Dream that could use fixing, one will be the focus of my research. This value was the initial rallying cry of the founding Fathers in Boston. They begged for a political voice. Now voting lies at the core of American rights. It’s what early Feminists fought for at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s what African American leaders under Martin Luther King Jr. marched for for in Selma, Alabama. It’s the best way to influence the direction of this nation. Sadly, it too has been corrupted.
Unlike state sponsored segregation in the South or the Trail of Tears, the average voter’s biggest enemy is a little more subtle, and a little more luxurious. If one were to walk down K Street in Washington DC, they would notice beautiful high rises lining each side of the street. In between them is a busy road chalk full well dressed, important looking people. Disclaimer: they are. These individuals make up the large and growing population of lobbyists on capitol hill. Officially, their job is to influence or sway public officials in their client’s favor. They work for corporations, interest groups and even individuals who want pieces of legislation passed or blocked. Essentially, they grant their clients more political leverage than the average American.
This definition of lobbying should raise a couple red flags. Especially since US code title 18, section 201 states:
whoever directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official with intent to influence that person’s official act will be fined for the offence of bribery. The punishment prescribed by the statue is a fine of an amount not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, or imprisonment for not more than fifteen years, or both. Additionally he/she can be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the U.S government. (https://bribery.uslegal.com/federal-laws-on-bribery/)
Then how, one might ask, is lobbying legal?