Voters’ demands for lobbying regulation are unmet by elected officials

Voters don’t trust elected officials. One of the ways this phenomenon manifests itself is by popular support for various forms of regulation of the officials’ political activity. The fact that this sentiment doesn’t get reflected in policy – just like public opinion regarding the salaries of elected officials – is a blunt failure of the electoral responsiveness dogma.

Rhetoric being cheaper than policy, some promises to regulate lobbying do get made:

I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists — and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president. Barack Obama, 2007

This promise was not, of course, translated to policy. But that aside, even as rhetoric this is rather tepid. Hammering lobbyists publicly – one of the only groups of people more widely distrusted than elected officials themselves – should have been an easy way for candidates and incumbents to win votes. But doing so would involve not only offending benefactors who finance the politicians’ campaigns but also offending former and future colleagues who happen to currently be on the other side of the revolving door.