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Mr. President, We Are Not All Like Paul Manafort

Last week in an interview with Fox News, President Trump came out and defended his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who he said was treated unfairly during his recent trial, where he was convicted on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud.

I applaud anyone who stands by a friend (especially in this town) who they believe is innocent, but where I take issue with the President is when he say’s “What he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.”   This is where the President has it wrong!  We are not all like Paul Manafort.

When things go wrong in Washington, the first reaction is to blame lobbyists because we’re an easy target. This is just another one of those cases.  The President’s statement is not only false, it can’t be backed up with facts.  The President’s comments are deeply troubling, because Paul Manafort was not convicted of crimes committed as a lobbyist.  Paul Manafort was convicted of 8 counts of bank and tax fraud, not Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) violations.  There is a big difference.

Paul Manafort was a shady businessman, not a lobbyist. A jury of his peers found him guilty of Felonies – his crimes are not minor offenses.  Manafort lied, cheated and committed serious crimes. This is not what lobbyists do.  This is the picture some like to paint of our profession, but the reality is, our Constitution encourages citizens to petition their government.  Nowhere does it say in the Constitution that members of Congress or the President of the United States are required to be swayed by our lobbying efforts when they vote or sign legislation into law. Nor does the Constitution require members of Congress or the President to accept campaign contributions from us.    Lobbyists don’t have the power to vote on legislation – only our elected members of Congress and President have those powers.

Some in Washington need to take a hard look in the mirror.  The gridlock, partisan fighting, and flat out misinformation isn’t being provided by lobbyists, its being provided by those very people who are trying to paint lobbyists as the corrupt cog in the wheel preventing Washington from doing the work of the people.  Those of us in the lobbying profession want the system to run like our Founding Fathers envisioned – where everyone has a voice.  Where all issues are heard and get fair votes.  Where we have some semblance of regular order and not sweetheart deals cut by a small few at the expense of the masses.  That’s what we want – that’s what the people want.

So, when people take shots at the lobbying profession, please at least do so with facts, not bullet points or myths. Let’s not join in the fake news that we cry foul on.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you the lobbying profession doesn’t have its bad actors, because we do.  We all know who they are, but we are no different than any other profession.  I’m simply asking that we stop the politics of personal destruction and lead with facts — not fake news!

The reality is, without the lobbying profession, so many voices would never be heard.  From the children fighting cancer to those battling homelessness and poverty; to those suffering from debilitating diseases; to helpless animals, who can’t speak for themselves.  And yes, we have groups that want to reform the financial system, remove regulatory hurdles and enhance our national defense.  Lobbyists represent a spectrum of issues before the Administration and Congress and represent their issues with integrity and honest decency.  All these groups and so many more have voices because they have lobbyists working to have their voice heard in a town and through a process that is more complex than ever before.

This should not be viewed as an attack on the President.  I am simply correcting the record on what the President said yesterday.  He’s not alone here. It’s like clockwork every election cycle.  The closer you get to an election the more candidates attack lobbyists.  It’s something we are used too, but it’s not something we are going to continue to sit back and take.  Lobbyists are tired of being the piñata to beat up on.  NILE will continue to speak out for the profession and its members.  We serve honorable men and women and will not let the continued attacks be how we are defined.  We will not let fake news define this profession any longer

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