Lobbying: etymology and the Brazilian General Elections

The world lobby derives from English, meaning vestibule, hallway. By extension, it was the place where people who sought to influence authorities and/or politicians stood,and ended up designating the action of the professionals that wanted to exert pressure so that bills or policies were approved in benefit of those they represented. (BORIN, 1988).

Its etYmology is somehow dated back to the 15th century, related to Asians and European merchants who would bring their goods to be liberated to be commercialized in England. The owners of the “Great Companies” would hire merchants to bring the documents needed to the members of the Parliament so that their ships would be liberated to sail in their water and they would eventually meet the Lords in the hallways of Westminister, in a private wing to discuss laws that could affect the international trade of imported goods, in some sort of Lobby in the Parliament[1]. Centuries latter, in 1869, in the former British settlement, the American president Ulysses S Grant, in a meeting with members of the legislative branch and businessmen at the lobby of Williard Hotel in Washington DC, in the middle of a few cigars and brandys, referred to these gentlemen, who waited for him in that place to debate matters of commercial and legal value, as “lobbyists” [2].

In Brazil, the practice of lobbying is viewed negatively, being associated to illegal practices such as traffic of influence and illicit financial transactions between public and private entities. This stigma of the lobbyist professional, or the Government Relations professional, dates back to 1970[3]. During the Brazilian military government, Congress was weakened and attributions such as addressing demands and formulating public policies were centralized in the Executive branch.  In this context emerges the figure of the “friend of the King”. Knowing ministers or members of the military in strategic positions was essential for the success of the lobbyist (OLIVEIRA, 2005).

Decades later and Brazilian News still draw a parallel between lobby, corruption and traffic of influence. Brazilian political news in the last 2 years have been making the same mistake. The job of the lobbyist – a series of activities of technical representation, with factual arguments, offering impartial information that allow a dialogue between different players and the legislative branch – is very different, in essence, of practices of corruption and traffic of influence, being actually antonyms. The real lobbyist (neither good nor “evil”) is the one that seeks, with facts, expose impacts. Informs so that the legislative decision-making is holistic at best or, at least, more conscient.

Criminal practices of big Brazilian corporations associated with politicians might partially explain the current elections period in which the country is living. Data from the UN point to the fact that Brazil loses nearly 200 billion Reais in corruption scandals per year, which was felt in the 2018 elections. Brazil had nearly 50% renovation in the House of Representatives, the biggest renovation variation in 20 years[4]. Even if this renovation is due to the rotation of the seats in the said chamber, it is notorious that many members of traditional families who usually are elected  have not managed to get enough votes to be elected this time, while a new party (Partido NOVO) managed to elect 4 federal deputies, 11 state deputies, 1 district depute and got a candidate for a state government on the second round of state elections with 43% of valid votes.

In this current political moment, Di Blasi, Parente & Associados opens up its Government Relations practice area. With services that go way beyond mapping and monitoring factual information that allow clients to expand their horizons and their stakeholders, contributing for a better decision-making process.


* Raquel Araújo, Government Relations strategist

[1] Lobbying and Access: The Canons of Windsor and the Matter of the Poor Knights in the Parliament of 1485. History of Parliament. Hannes Kleineke. 2005

[2] NPR, NPR discussion of Ulysses Grant and origins of the term lobbyist. Retrieved November 19, 2008


[4] Data from DIAP – Departamento Intersindical de Assessoria Parlamentar.

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