Mr. Merriam Goes to Washington

When you hear the word “lobbyist” do you have a negative impression? Perhaps you think of hired attorneys from large law firms who represent national oil companies, or you think of unions with busloads of their members all wearing identical, loud-colored T-shirts using bullhorns, chants, and placards touting some particular union-favored legislative position. But I, too, am a lobbyist. No, I don’t get paid for it; in fact, it costs me money to go to both my state’s capital and our nation’s capital to lobby our elected representatives and their tax-payor-funded staff. In my opinion, since representative government is the underpinning strength of our open form of government, I have been doing this gratis lobbying for most of my professional career as a necessary civic duty. Our founding fathers included the words “We the people” in our constitution (see for a full writing of this wonderful, unique document) because the power of our government is supposed to come from the citizenry, not from government down to its subjects, as one would find in a kingdom or a dictatorship.

So, what does this lobbyist lobby for and against? While in Albany, our state’s capital, I was lobbying for tort reform (the system of law that attributes the standards of negligence), consumer protection relating to health insurance purchases, and against anti-consumer provisions that some insurance companies perpetuate. In Washington DC I was lobbying to allow for more tax deductibility for those who make charitable contributions, and against the legalization of recreational marijuana owing to safety concerns.

Do any of these efforts really cause my representatives to change their minds? I don’t know; but I do know that as a citizen I am greatly blessed to have access to those who legislate my laws. I am even more privileged to know that this country was founded on the principle that I have as much say in the influencing of government as any well-paid lobbyist. Not all countries allow such access, and I know that if I don’t exercise my rights and fight for what I believe in, then I have no right to complain when laws are passed about which I kept silent. God bless America.

Brian H. Merriam, CPCU, ARM, AAI
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