Your Congress today; Congressman's lobbies
Nearly two centuries ago the new constitution of a new nation was read and proclaimed in the Town Halls of America. Legislative powers here and granted shall be vested in my Congress of the United States. Which all consist of my Senate and House of Representatives. The House of Representatives shall be composed. These were the words that gave birth to one of the three branches of our government the state the legislative director the needs as own nation has grown what has become of this branch of the governmental tree branch of this what is the status of your Congress today. Your Congress today is produced and recorded by the Indiana University Radio and Television
Service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Here is your narrator. DANIEL O'CONNOR though the Liberty Bell has lost its resonance and the many town hall bells ringing out the message of government have ceased to toll a new bell rings for America. Listen. This is the bell any tourist to our nation's capital can hear resoundingly through the corridors of our Capitol building. This is the bell which summons your congressman to his voting chamber when he arrives there why does he vote the way he does. To him of what importance are you the voting constituency who he represents Of what importance are his party the special interest groups the president the Supreme Court and the administrative agencies of government. On today's program we consider the third of these six potential influences on his legislative behavior. That is the special interest groups or lobbies to get
a glimpse of the relationship between members of Congress and the special interest groups. I talked with two congressional leaders Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Senator Homer D.K. part of Indiana. My first interview was with Senator Humphrey elected to the Senate in 1948 after having taught political science in college and having served as mayor of Minneapolis. Senator Humphrey I imagine as a member of the Senate Agriculture and Forestry committee you often have special interest groups or lobbying organizations appear before you as an individual and perhaps also before the committee at large is that correct. Oh yes indeed there are of course every commodity that is in the agricultural field has a trade association or a commodity Association tied to it. And these become in a sense lobbying groups.
And your opinion Senator Humphrey do you regard these lobbying groups as performing a valuable function in government. Yes I think lobbying groups do perform a useful and at least an interesting function in government. I think you have to expect lobbying to government today has such a direct effect upon people's lives upon their economic well-being their personal security and that it is natural for people who have the interests that are being affected by government regulation or government statute to want to have specialized representation a little special interest to it. And then I could also add that there with the tremendous demands on our time in Congress these days and in the executive branch that unless you organize the voice that seeks to penetrate through this maze of contesting voices for your attention you're just not going to be heard. So therefore you see the lobby takes on a new significance and I believe does perform a reasonably valuable function
then lobbying is not necessarily a bad word and well no I think it has taken on some bad connotations because generally speaking when you hear about a lobby that term is applied to one that has attempted to gain special interest for a limited special group an almost outrageous nature. I see. Do you regard the the informational services that a lobbying group provide you or congressmen in general as. Especially valuable perhaps as valuable as the legislative reference services or as other end sources of information that you might receive. Yes it is a valuable source of information I say when I say it I mean a lobby is a valuable source of information. Of course you always have to recognize that the the lobby has a point of view and if you accept the information with the kind of surety of judgment that you ought to have if you're in one of these positions it can the information can be helpful now remember that you always have an action and a reaction I force and I counter force. You have a lobby for reciprocal trade and you will have a dozen and one against it
and you can rest assured that the one that's for the reciprocal trade treaty I use that as an example will point up its good points and those who are militant Lee for it will dig day and night to get the last little bit of evidence even more so than the library even more so than that then Administration spokesman and those who are against it will of course go out and find those practical realistic examples of where injury has been done or alleged injury done to a community or an industry or an individual. Now you try to balance those off. And I suppose the greatest lobby in the world is your own environment and this balancing office this sort of reasoning process that perhaps you apply to it. Yes that's right. Their whole theory here is that in a free society such as ours that we're supposed to be engaged in competition of ideas. There is you know there's surely competition for your time your thought for your interest and it is to be presumed that if you can lay these facts out of these
allegations or these charges or what information you have laid them out before they legislate or or the job Joe whoever it may be that out of this tremendous amount of evidence you'll be able to find the kernels of truth and piece them together and and arrive at an honor an honorable decision. I see. Well in addition to evaluating the kind of information you receive from a lobbying group evaluating it in terms of the point of view of this particular group do you ever. Attempt to test the validity of the facts on the information that are presented to you. Oh indeed many many times for example you mention the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. We have groups that appear before us that will make good statements pertaining to or the use of a particular commodity or its potential use and frequently I have referred those statements to what I would call unbiased sources such as the Bureau of Standards of the US government or the Food and Drug Administration
or over to the Department of Agriculture itself or possibly out of my own State University's School of Agriculture trying to verify or validate or invalidate what what has been presented to us. Now again lobbying or as we call it special representation in any area or by any individual you frequently judge it by the respect that you have for the individual presenting it. For example we find that some people come to us regularly with honorable information that have more than just lobbying at heart. They're really public spirited and motivated people and those people I think I find when I find a tendency to be them just a little quicker than I do others. The human reaction you find in yourself possibly a tendency to put greater faith in the representative of the larger lobbying group as opposed to the smaller group that he's representing or the other way around does the weight of numbers have any effect do you think in your own
evaluation of the case. Well I find myself for example being very interested in materials that are presented to us let's say by the American Association of University Women now they don't think of themselves as a lobbying group and they're not may be registered under the lobbying act but they are there for legislation or the League of Women Voters on the Foreign Policy Association or the American Association for the United Nations. Now let's move over in another area the National Milk Producers Federation has an excellent then competent people here in Washington. Their so-called legislative representatives. Yes. They represent a substantial number of the dairy producers. I have a tendency to feel that their testimony is is sound and solid and honorable because first of all A are represented these are very honorable people. So you accept their testimony a little more readily now when somebody comes down here on a tax case or organizes for the exploitation of some particular resource. I maybe it's just me maybe I'm just a little prejudiced or prejudicial and I guess I look at them with a jaundiced eye regardless of how many people
regardless of how many yes's and actually if there are fewer numbers I suppose you get a little more suspicious. Well how do you feel about the one man lobby I take it that a single individual is potentially a lobbyist in a sense. Yes although he perhaps wouldn't be officially registered under congressional law or according to Greg. Congressional law he still would be considered as a lobbyist and perhaps the thinking of a congressman. I know such a man and I where I used to wonder about him year after year I'd see him around here in the Senate reception room time after time he would call me out and give me some material live particularly as it related to social welfare activities he was always interested in. Programs over seas of health of education of malaria control. And here at home he was always interested in the use of our surplus foods and so forth I want to know what kind of a man is this is the most selfless unselfish sort of man and yet he was
always here I found out later on that he was a man of modest means a man who was really a kind of religious motivation I mean of a highly ethical moral person. He's a lobbyist. Yes. And he's a lobbyist for his convictions. He isn't here to get paid an echo. But I hired I was joshing. I tell him he's sort of omnipresent every time I turn around the areas when he has something on his mind. Now also this particular internet individual that comes to mind is well-informed exceedingly well informed well read and when he presents material to you it's it's factual. Now there is a one man lobby he thank goodness he's for what I call good things. I imagine there are some one man lobbies as there have been for example or an individual that feels that the government has dealt unjustly with him and they'll spend some of them months years down here in Washington in a desperate and sometimes futile effort to get their case rectified. Yes. But then you feel that even the one man lobby possibly performs a valuable function and
govern us the danger I think of lobbies most the biggest danger is not the fact that they press their case but it's when they start swinging that money bag around the danger of the lobby is the one that can buy up the radio time the television time and the newspaper ads and also can really march into a campaign and start making substantial contributions to candidates and political parties are bringing pressure to bear has to stop contributions to another candidate. That's a lot that's the kind of lobbying that needs to be regulated. That's where you need really need to put the watchful eye upon them now the person that comes down here and pleads with this congressman in behalf of a group for legislation. They got that right that's the right of freedom of petition. Yes that's a basic right in our Constitution then. I don't hold any brief against them at all no matter what case they may plead. They're entitled to plead a bad case as well as a good one. They're entitled to be wrong as well as right. Yes but the one that I feel that we need to watch out for. It's the lobby that spends years and years molding of public opinion very carefully and meticulously kind of social
orientation course a lobby that spends time building a particular political personality or building a particular political. Party or segment of a party doing this and a thousand and one ways radio as I said television newspaper but socially to you know just building a climate in which certain attitudes can progress or move up the line. That's a lobby that can really be dangerous in the long run. Well you say there oughtta be a Law solicitor you know there are limits. Do you envision such legislation perhaps in the future. Yes I don't care of the situation. We do have right now as you referred to it is a federal lobbying act the registration of lobbyists their salary their in their name their address their purpose and a group that they work for their salary their expense account all that is filed with the secretary of the Senate not be the clerk of the house. We so we have that information however there is a I think the limitation is too small to write is it up to
$500 or something I forgot the figure now anyway I believe that when a a lobbyist organization spends let's say over $100 that they ought to be registered and that is if they have a particular job to do and they start to move beyond that to the Congress they ought to be registered Furthermore I believe that any contribution to any lobby $50 or more ought to be registered. In other words if you're going to make a contribution to an organization that comes down here to lobby you ought not to say that only those with a thousand who contribute a thousand dollars or more Register register all contributors and also register all lobbies that have any expense whatsoever in their activities. Now that goes a long ways but it's a way to check up on what's really going on. I think this one of the weaknesses in the present law is that it is not sufficiently embracing. And you think that over a long period of time in them that this increasing more stringent checks on the registration of lobbyists and so on would. Take
care of the very broad thing you referred to before the infiltration through radio through television hell actual development of a matrix in a sense it would help. Also they clean elections bill that we have that the senator Hennings was the chairman of the Rules Committee I believe has reported such a bill out I hope that we will enact it placing much more rigid requirements upon reporting of funds that you receive in campaigns and also establishing realistic maximums that you can spend. The present election laws say that you can expend so little that anybody that runs for office knows full well that he has to violate the law by some do some subtlety. If you get if he's ever going to run when you place limitations upon campaigns that are totally unrealistic in light of the cost of modern campaigning through radio and television yes then you just you give incentive and motivation to find ways and means of avoiding the law. And once that you found a way to avoid the strict letter of the law and thereby to a state penalty then you're absolutely stock free to go
on and do just about as much as you want to even if it isn't ethical. It is not illegal. Therefore I believe that we ought to have much more rigid requirements in terms of the listing of contributions and contributors name and and amounts permitting also some change in the tax law to let political contributions be tax deductible up to a point. I see. For example someone in our state of Minnesota we had up to $100 you can contribute to ending code that has a deductible item now or that none on a federal level. There'd be a broader base you see for political contributions and at the same time I think place less of the premium upon the individual candidate or his committee seeking large contributions which have a tendency which have a tendency to press upon you. After talking with Senator Humphrey I made arrangements to interview Senator home or take a part of
Indiana who unlike the senator from Minnesota had a career as a farmer and manufacturer before it being elected to the Senate in 1944. Son of the K part what forms may lobbying take that is to say how may the representatives of special interest groups reach the Congress while they desire they can and they can reach members of Congress by a telegram by letter or by personal visits either individually or in groups. And every conceivable way and also reach committees as well as really individuals in Congress and testify before committees and talk to the individual members of the committee they can talk to members of Congress and they do. In other words every one of every American has a right of course to petition his government he has a right to talk with his duly elected officials. And that
in a sense is you might say is lobbying when one individual writes a letter to his senator suggesting something. You feel that committees in general and senators in general are receptive to the advances of law is that is something I rather think so I can't speak for others I know for myself I learned a lot from lobbying lobbyists. God our God why the Congress and members of Congress deal with every conceivable thing we deal with finances agriculture and terror. There isn't anything that we don't deal with there was a time when once when I was chairman of fifteen subcommittees dealing with everything from fish to bird to the habits of ducks and geese and every conceivable thing. Now I know no man has ever had enough experience to be a United States senator. Meaning that we have ordinary people and private life to concentrate on one thing or another either they are good farmers and that's that. That's their belief work whether a
doctor or a lawyer or a manufacturer of a given product. But when you get into the Senate of the United States you're called upon to do almost be an expert on every subject. Now there is enough hours in the day for a Congress Senator to to to educate himself and therefore lobbyists that I've been very very helpful to me because I welcome them. I invite them to come in and give me a boast sides of the issue. Yes every piece of legislation has that has people foreign people against it. Yes and I want to hear from both sides I want to hear from those that are against it and those that are for it. No senator however has got to have the ability and the courage and the frankness and the honesty to pick the wheat from the chaff from these lobbyists because every lobbyist you know wants to sell you. Meaning the senator on doing exactly what he'd like to have done. Yes the way I had a lobbyist is I welcome Omar invite them to come in I listen to them
and I make up my own mind based upon the facts that they can bring and do bring to me. Do you feel on this matter of separating the wheat from the chaff that you develop a certain facility for testing all of the accuracy of their facts of the validity of the facts. Yes I think one does I think one as a senator I've been here 14 years now and I've learned the shortcuts and learned who who are giving the facts and who are and who are giving a propaganda. But that's that's my business you see you know what I mean by that and that's my responsibility I should say rather than my business. But they've been very very helpful to me. It's just like learning both sides of an issue and see the way they're crusaders for their side. And if you listen to both sides then they're very helpful. From what I can tell and the course of other end of interviews that I've held with senators and representatives It seems that we're facing an age of big government and possibly even bigger government. With the increase of the number of agencies and now with a space age ahead of us do you think of feel that this advance in the role of government possibly
will bring about increased importance on the part of lobbying organizations. Yes to the extent that it's going to require senators to be better educated to know more facts about more and more subjects. I but unfortunately they're still the same number of hours in each day the same number of days in each year. In other words we need to have the same number of senators we had with 96. Yes. And it's going to be more important for senators to get their help and I addle izing these things in getting the facts. Well that would be an academic question for me to ask if you felt that lobbies played an important part in our form of government. I think I think they do and I understand there's good lobbyists and lobbyists and bad ones just as there is going to do every other classification because NO NO NO NO individual or no groups that I ever heard of have a complete monopoly on all of vices or all of virtues. Yes. Well you have good ones and you have bad ones but. I frankly I've I have met very few bad ones in fact I don't know that I ever have met any what I call
bad lobbyist I met those that have somewhat of a more enthusiastic about their cause and yes that. Landmark convinced that you lot to do what they want you to do but. That's no reason why senators should do it. Well assuming that there may be even one bad lobbying group around somewhere do you think that the Congress has sufficient control over the activities of lobbies with the legislation I think since I think they do I've never had any trouble. Even if there'd been no registration law favoring out who was who when they come to call upon me. Now I can ask them a few questions too and do and I've had no trouble and would have no trouble with it. So you don't see any need for increasing the severity of legislation or something for the simple reason that I know of that every man that calls upon me is either there to be foreign against a specific piece of legislation. Well if he says he's against a legit piece of legislation or I can soon learn out why learn
why he's against it and I can soon learn from where he came and who he represents and I think it's my individual responsibility to ascertain those things. With you personally Senator Kay part do you feel that the weight of numbers plays any part in your evaluation that is to say if the man represents 100000 people as opposed to 100 does that make any difference in your Does it make any difference with me. I'm interested in the facts. Yes rather than the number that he represents and rep and interested in his cause and the justice of his cause and his position as to why he is either for or against a given piece of legislation. Because I'm I'm wise enough to know after 14 14 years down here that that man they say I represent a hundred a hundred thousand. Yes but he possibly hasn't talked to a single one of them or at least I don't know more maybe than the directors because I'm a member of a lot of organizations that.
That dye that then come in and say I represent x y z organization and I happen to be a member of it and I know of course that they never consulted me as to my opinion on it but yet he says he represents me because I happen to be a member of the aisle that specific organization. Yes now I know that as a senator after many years here it wouldn't take many years to figure that out. So I take that into consideration and I realize that he has a job to do which is which is right under our system of government is that our people have a right to petition their government pretty Should their representatives either is an individual or petition them as groups are organizations. Well if you carry that attitude all the way to the complete extreme then do you entertain the the desires and the opinions of say the one man lobby the single individual who may come here at his own expense and I mean audience I'd give him just as much consideration as I do the other day and I'm just as happy to see it. And in the past I've learned as much from those kind as I have from
others. Well thank you very very much Senator Homer AK part of Indiana for appearing on this program. Thank you sir. When I return to the campus of Indiana University I asked Professor pianist helpless of the department of government to listen to the tape recorded interviews for a brief sum ation of the topic. The Congress and the special interest groups. I wanted the views of a specialist in the field. I noticed on the both of these gentlemen senators Humphrey and Kay Parker referred to the right to petition. Would you clarify that a little bit forest please. Yes their reference was to a provision in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. This states that Congress shall not abridge the people's right to petition their government for the redress of wrongs. And this
has been taken to be the basis for lobbying activities. I might point out that many American people feel that lobbying is some type of an evil. And this despite the fact that our American people are members of one or more of these groups which do maintain lobbying headquarters in Washington DC and in our various state capitals. Well lobbyists and politicians are the words that is lobbyist and politician and might connote something evil to some people. And yet I think that we should note that lobbyists do play a highly important role in our governmental process sees. I think both gentleman brought that out especially some of the AK Party statement to the effect that no one man was qualified to be a United States senator. He meant by that that no one man can have all the knowledge necessary in order to make wise decisions in each of the many
questions that come before the Congress. And we know how difficult it would be in the outside world that is in a non governmental position a doctor of course will be a specialist just in that area are a farmer or a dairy manure what have you. But in the Congress of the United States our legislators must know something about each one of those very many questions that come before them and here's where the lobbyists play a highly important role because they provide the Congress with information. Now notice how they are doing. Let us say that did they. Congress is considering a public housing bill. Well there will be any number of groups that will appear before the Congress in order to take a position to explain the position taken and they are going to provide Congress with considerable information then on slum clearance on civic beautification and on eliminating health problems on eliminating juvenile delinquency problems and so forth.
And this is all to the advantage of our congressmen then in trying to make a decision on the legislation and each man indicated his own personal method of validating or invalidating the information he received. Well did either of these gentleman say anything about the evils of lobbying and the potential evils to part perhaps justify this connotation of the word carries with the American people. The reference I believe in Senator Humphrey's remarks was to the registration of lobbyists active nine hundred forty six and the emphasis here is on publicity not on prohibition. In other words the government doesn't want to prohibit the activities of lobbyist but it does want to control the activities of lobby.
- Your Congress today
- Congressman's lobbies
- Producing Organization
- Indiana University
- WFIU (Radio station : Bloomington, Ind.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Sen. Hubert Humphrey ("Any contribution to any lobby of $50 or more ought to be registered") and Sen. Homer E. Capehart
- Other Description
- This series explores the relationships between the Congress and the Supreme Court and the Presidency.
- Broadcast Date
- Politics and Government
- Media type
Guest: Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
Guest: Capehart, Homer E. (Homer Earl), 1897-1979
Host: O'Connor, Daniel
Producing Organization: Indiana University
Producing Organization: WFIU (Radio station : Bloomington, Ind.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-10-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Your Congress today; Congressman's lobbies,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dv1cps8w.
- MLA: “Your Congress today; Congressman's lobbies.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dv1cps8w>.
- APA: Your Congress today; Congressman's lobbies. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dv1cps8w