According to the Sunlight Foundation, lobbying is legal in only 22 countries worldwide, such as in the U.S. where it is protected by the1st Amendment to the Constitutionand regulated under theLobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, which requires lobbyists to register themselves and disclose their federal-level activities. In the rest, “lobbyism is justified bribery” and is either outlawed or simply unregulated.

Unregulated lobbying, which characterizes the vast majority of the Global South, implies unrestricted freedom to influence State actors. In these countries, the corporate capture of the State — at least through lobbying and political influence — occurs in a gray area. In a minority of countries, lobbying is recognized as corruption and is outlawed, which relegates it even more to the shadows.

A concomitant system is electoral politics, where corporations, individuals, and other actors contribute to candidates and parties, ostensibly as an extension of free speech protections, such as under the 1st Amendment in the U.S.However, even with regulation, money in politics can produce clientelism, corruption, procedural favoritism, hand-picked public officials, and other by-products that favor business interests but not democracy.

According to Paul Waldman, there are 12 countries worldwide where “there are no limits on contributions and no limits on what candidates can spend;” 12 where “there are limits on both contributions and on spending;” six “with limits on spending but not on donations;” two “with contribution limits but no spending limits: Finland and the United States;” and then “Mexico and Portugal, where all contributions go through parties and individual candidates don’t take contributions.”

AsConectas(Brazil) points out, oftentimes corporations form chambers of commerce and trade associations to engage in business politics. In other words,lobbying occurs directly and indirectly, on the books and off the books, in one form or another.

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