Professor Luigi Zingales writes in the University of Chicago Business School blog about the issues raised when individuals direct corporate political contributions and oversight is limited or entirely absent.
When economic giants fight among themselves, not only does the right to lobby fulfill a constitutional right, it is also efficient. This is what Nobel Prize winner (and late University of Chicago professor) Gary Becker thought: competition among lobbies leads to efficient outcomes). Yet, for this result to be true two conditions need to be fulfilled. First, the different interests (or viewpoints) should have equal ability to organize and finance their lobbying effort. As Mancur Olson (a Maryland economist who died too young to win the Nobel Prize) wrote, dispersed interests face a bigger hurdle in getting organized). Thus, citizens interested in clean water have a harder time lobbying Congress than chemical companies who pollute it (see the DuPont case described here). Second, lobbying is efficient if it is entirely dedicated to providing information to the legislator. While some lobbying certainly performs this role, not all of it does, as shown in this paper. If lobbying is (mostly?) about influencing rather than about informing, then it is a tantamount to an arms race, which leads to inefficient outcomes with too much lobbying). Thus, under realistic conditions lobbying tends to be excessive from a social point of view: not only does it waste resources, but also might lead to the wrong decisions: favoring the strongest player, not necessarily the one with the most valid claim. If this is the case, then there cannot be an economic duty to lobby, at least not one based on sound economic principles, since this prescription would lead to outcomes that are inefficient.