Rather than being inherently evil, business lobbying is a socially responsible activity which needs to be restrained by ethical standards. To be effective in a business environment, traditional ethical standards need to be translated into language which business persons can speak comfortably. Economical explanations must also be available to explain why ethical standards are appropriate in business. Eight such standards and their validating arguments are proposed with examples showing their use. Internal dialogues regarding the ethics of lobbying objectives and tactics will plausibly occur only in businesses which recognize social responsibility mandates. Public interest stakeholders could hasten this recognition by making use of information made available by the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to institute external dialogues regarding lobbying by specific businesses and industry groups . Given practical ethical standards and the information on business lobbying provided by the law, the press, corporate activists, consumers, pension fund managers and the public can apply pressure for ethical lobbying practices.
J. Brooke Hamilton III, is the J. J. & Helen B. Burdin Professor of Professional Ethics at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He was head of the Philosophy Department at Tuskegee Institute, worked 14 years as Marketing Vice President for Elks Concrete Products, Inc, and returned to research and teaching in 1991 after receiving his M.B.A. His work appears in the Journal of Business Ethics, the Southeastern Journal of Legal Studies in Business, and the Journal of Education for Business.
David Hoch is a Professor of Marketing and Legal Studies at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. His primary research interest is in promoting a greater legal and ethical sensitivity to the environment, and he has published several articles in this area, which he calls “biocentric jurisprudence.”