Lobbying is the attempt to advocate an agenda and to influence legislators and other policymakers to support that agenda. Lobbying is protected by the redress clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is illegal for a lobbyist to pay or to give gifts to a member of Congress in return for his or her vote. However, there are many ways in which lobbyists use gifts or campaign contributions to sway legislators' votes.
The Federal Election Campaign Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 set limits on the direct contributions that lobbying organizations or individuals can give to federal political candidate campaigns. However, many lobbyists work around this by paying for congress member trips, expensive dinners and other gifts or perks. There is ongoing debate regarding what limits should be placed on such gifts. Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, lobbyists are required to register with the Senate and House of Representatives and disclose the circumstances of any meetings they have with members of Congress six times per year.
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