In my country influence peddling is called traffic of influence, it is considered a crime, and punished accordingly.

As regards lobbying, there's no such a thing as this in my language, let alone a law that would define it. However, lest you judge me too harshly, let me offer a pertinent fact: the concept is barely understood even by many experienced people. Here I'm talking about Lobbying in the United States:

It is highly a controversial phenomenon, often seen in a negative light by journalists and the American public, and frequently misunderstood.

I read this article, as well as consulted the online dictionaries and noticed that the main difference consists in the following:

Lobbying is defined as an attempt to influence, seek to influence, try to influence, to apply pressure or influence whereas influence peddling is defined as involvement in, that is, improperly influencing or is the illegal practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favours or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment.

So, what would be the difference between the two concepts, when can we say that lobbying crossed the line?

Please let me know your thoughts on this in terms of language.

2 Answers 2


Lobbying is where an interested group tries to influence the vote of an elected official through legal means, which can include such things as an appeal to principle, or overall economic good, or popular opinion, or simply political reality. For example, a lobbyist might broker a deal between two politicians to get them to vote for legislation which benefits each others' constituency, and which also benefits whoever hired the lobbyist.

As long as it's all legal, there is nothing criminal about lobbying. In many cases, of course, the actual transaction might be legally grey, but that's what makes politics such good television.

Lobbying crosses the line into bribery when the lobbyist makes an actual pay-to-play offer, in the form of cash or any other item of value. For example, there are numerous rules that limit the kinds of gifts an elected official may receive, and how those gifts may be used, transferred, or sold.

"Influence peddling" is illegal activity in the opposite direction, where a public official in some position of power contacts a special-interest group and offers to exchange votes or services for some kind of personal compensation. Again, if the offer would be of benefit to the public, it might not be illegal, but rather politics as usual.

The public official must make the offer for personal gain for it to be considered "influence peddling". This can be as simple as offering to fix a parking violation in exchange for concert tickets, or approving a zoning permit in exchange for a loan at a favorable interest rate.

This kind of thing is also called "graft", "payola", or the catch-all term "corruption".


You've already got the definitions. I'll try to add some context and clarity. The simplest explanation might be that it is the difference between "influence" as a verb or a noun. Lobbying attempts to influence decision makers (verb), Influence peddling is the selling of influence (noun). Some elaboration:

Lobbying is "outside in"; the party on the receiving end of a decision seeks to influence the decision maker to get a favorable result. It is somewhat analogous to marketing. The lobbyist tries to convince decision makers to do something. There are endless ways to influence a decision maker, but the definition stops at illegal activity. For example, bribery is not lobbying. Legitimate lobbying still results in a merit-based decision.

Influence peddling is an "inside job". The decision maker, or somebody connected to the decision maker, influences the decision in exchange for something of value. Andrew's answer describes the decision maker selling a favorable decision.

The term also applies to someone other than the decision maker who is closely connected, so they possess influence and can manipulate the decision essentially from the inside, and they sell that access. As with lobbying, there are endless ways in which an insider could influence a decision. Influence peddling results in a decision that is not merit-based.

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