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Nicholas Allard wants the world to know that lobbying is an honorable profession. In fact, he’s written 11,400 words in an attempt to prove just that point and published them in the most recent issue of Stanford Law & Policy Review. Last weekend, the head of Patton Boggs’ public policy practice presented his paper to a Stanford audience packed with legal scholars, good government groups, and journalists. The title of his treatise, “Lobbying is an Honorable Profession,” elicited chuckles from the audience�but Allard is dead serious. “The case just seems too self-evident to me,” Allard says. No one, he adds, would need lobbyists if all they needed to do to change policy was to pick up a few dinner tabs and cut some campaign checks. Others at the symposium, like John de Figueiredo, a UCLA professor who authored a book on academic earmark lobbying, called Allard’s faith in government incorruptibility and the positive influence of outside interests hopelessly idealistic. Given that many Americans would consider him “the hired goon of special interests,” Allard jokes, being attacked for naivet� was a pleasant change of pace. The image problem is nothing new. As one footnote in Allard’s paper ruefully observes, the 1888 Dictionary of American Politics defines the word “lobby” “as a term applied collectively to men who make a business of corruptly influencing legislators.” His assistant Kathryn Smith estimates the writing process cost Allard, who is also a lawyer, at least 400 (unbillable) hours, plus her time, that of a summer associate, and Patton Boggs’ in-house research team. The result is intended to serve as a remedial civics lesson on the role of outside advocacy in government, Allard says. In his view, lobbyists have done themselves and their fellow citizens a disservice by overstating their own influence. “It’s almost irresistible for people to cultivate the image of being able to pick up the phone and change the world,” he says of his colleagues. “In some ways, lobbyists are hoisted by their own petard.” The negative reputation damages the profession’s ability to recruit talented novices, Allard says, and the myth that lobbyists practice the dark political arts over a $50 lunch with a congressman distracts from more substantive good-government issues like campaign finance reform. All in all, the profession has failed to establish the institutional respectability lawyers enjoy, Allard says, with their American Bar Association ratings, scholarly journals, and pro bono requirements. In that light, the paper is another step in the slow process of bringing lobbying into the folds of law. It’s a good time for such an endeavor, Allard believes. “People are skeptical of the quick fix,” he says. “That’s one of the benefits of the Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff scandals.”
Jeff Horwitz can be contacted at [email protected].

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