In the “In the Know” column in the June issue of American Gas magazine Joe Watson Jr., director of federal government affairs for AGA member company Exelon Corp., lucidly and convincingly argues that lobbying, which is one of his core functions, is a noble and necessary profession. Indeed, as he notes, what he does is expressly recognized as one of our core rights in our First Amendment to the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law,” the First Amendment states, that interferes with the right of the people “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In other words, lobbying. We are a country of 300 million people, which means countless “interest groups”—essentially public and private associations formed by like-minded citizens—are bound to arise, all seeking government support in promoting our views, protecting our interests and, yes, redressing our grievances. Since all 300 million of us can’t individually petition the government we hire petitioners—lobbyists like Joe—to represent us.
Thus it is Joe’s job, as a lobbyist in the natural gas industry, to educate our public officials at all levels of government about those issues that are a high priority not only to natural gas utilities, but also to their customers. For example, the more Joe can convince legislators and regulators to pass laws or fashion regulations that result in low natural gas prices, the better it is for natural gas utilities and customers alike. The better it is for our country as well.
As it happens, Joe’s article could not be more timely because on July 1, a group called “1 for All,” which is a national nonpartisan organization working to increase awareness of our First Amendment freedoms, is launching a nationwide campaign to remind the public that in addition to the First Amendment’s four famous freedoms—of speech, the press, religion and assembly—that fifth freedom, to petition for “redress of grievances,” occupies a central place in our public life. Indeed, as both Joe and “1 for All” would certainly agree, the more registered lobbyists there are in Washington the better because they allow more different groups—small as well as large, new as well as established, modest as well as wealthy—to have their voices heard and their views known to the government. That is exactly what our Founding Fathers intended when they put the freedom to petition in the First Amendment.
To learn more about “1 for All,” which is affiliated with both the Newseum and the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C., visit its website www.1forAll.us. As our nation celebrates its 234th birthday on the 4th of July we should remember the many freedoms that make this celebration so worthwhile.