The problem you are running into is the conflation of "lobbying" and "special interests."
Lobbying, at its most basic form, is attempting to influence a representative to vote a certain way. An election is really nothing more than a special case of lobbying - only instead of influencing a representative, you are attempting to influence all voters.
A "special interest group" is a group of people that organize around a narrow issue, typically for the purposes of magnifying their ability to influence legislation.
Ultimately, all lobbying does is "do the work" of democracy - it makes people's voices heard.
When we fret over the "outsized influence of special interests," we are decrying the fact that the "average guy's" voice is being drawn out by money.
When we see bribery and corruption, that is clearly "against the rules," but done according to the rules, lobbying is just effective influence. From a pragmatic point of view then, the best kind of rules are those do not hinder the voice, but expose when the game is unfair. There's an old saying "Sunlight is the best disinfectant," meaning that when things are exposed to the light of day, then tend to clean things up. (Have to say, the New Testament pioneered this, saying, "Men love darkness rather than light", but I digress.) If, for example, an special interest group is receiving 96% of its funding from, say, Westboro Baptist Church, the principle of free speech (and Buckley v. Valeo) would say that prohibiting such donations is bad. At the same, the political blowback from exposing said fact tends to blunt said money's impact. Transparency, then, rather than legislation, is probably your best bet.
Now, writing a letter to your Congressman is also lobbying. Indeed as this podcast shows, when a Congressman is choosing between money from a big powerful interest group or the letters from his constituents, he'll choose the letters every time. Indeed, special interest groups are most effective when they get real voters to do just that - write their Congressmen.
And that's the problem - what you call a special interest is what I call "my interest," and vice versa. A lobbyist, a special interest group - all they are doing is being better at getting their voice heard than the guy who isn't focused.
I say this to answer your question thus, that lobbying is democracy, at its best. Any attempt to call it otherwise would be restrict the whole raison d'etre of democracy - to make your voice heard.