Theoretically anyone can lobby, but if you don´t have millions of dollars you probably won’t convince anyone. Does lobbying have a negative effect on the workings of democracy? Their influence has been growing dramatically, especially in the United States—where they are legal and play a key role in elections and policy making.
What about the activities of hedge funds and the so-called “vultures” and diverse forms of financial speculation? Although they appear to be financial operations providing astonishing profitability, they also function as political pressure groups because politics and money is like a quarreling couple.
Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, founded in 1977, pulled in $3 billion in 2013 from investors, according to Forbes magazine. One of his operations has to do with the Argentine debt. It is not just a question of how much interest you receive: the business of the “vultures” is to keep an eye on bonds or other financial documents that are on the verge of default, buy them at the cheapest rates possible then rake in extraordinary profits when the courts provide favorable decisions.
But that is not all, because there is also pressure politics. Elliott’s has a task force in Argentina with ample money at its disposal to pressure political and economic groups, the mass media and others.
It takes an enormous amount of money to bring about a change in policies—the lobbyists not only meet politicians but also bear strong influence on the mass media. The most well known lobbies are related to finance, the manufacture of weapons and medicine but practically every economic activity has lobbies to pressure in its favor.
Singer has clearly favored conservative politics in the U.S.—supporting the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney and rightwing Republican senator Marco Rubio and would certainly be pleased if the present populist government in Argentine should lose to a presidency more favorable to free market economics.
Since lobbying is legal, progressive causes also have their lobbyists. But success is clearly related to the amount of money available. Although theoretically workers and unemployed people can get together and form a lobby, they cannot compete with the millions of dollars available to the rich.
Where does all of this leave the concept of democracy?