Lobbying, persuasion, or interest representation is the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying, which usually involves direct, face-to-face contact, is done by many types of people, associations and organized groups, including individuals in the private sector, corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or advocacy groups (interest groups). Lobbyists may be among a legislator’s constituencies, meaning a voter or bloc of voters within their electoral district; they may engage in lobbying as a business. Professional lobbyists are people whose business is trying to influence legislation, regulation, or other government decisions, actions, or policies on behalf of a group or individual who hires them. Individuals and nonprofit organizations can also lobby as an act of volunteering or as a small part of their normal job. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying that has become influential.
The ethics and morals involved with lobbying are complicated. Lobbying can, at times, be spoken of with contempt, when the implication is that people with inordinate socioeconomic power are corrupting the law in order to serve their own interests. When people who have a duty to act on behalf of others, such as elected officials with a duty to serve their constituents’ interests or more broadly the public good, can benefit by shaping the law to serve the interests of some private parties, a conflict of interest exists. Many critiques of lobbying point to the potential for conflicts of interest to lead to agent misdirection or the intentional failure of an agent with a duty to serve an employer, client, or constituent to perform those duties. The failure of government officials to serve the public interest as a consequence of lobbying by special interests who provide benefits to the official is an example of agent misdirection.