Lobbying is advocating on behalf of a client or cause – generally for payment but also sometimes on a volunteer basis – to attempt to influence official action of either legislative or executive branch officials, and their staff. Individuals, or groups of individuals, lobby elected and appointed officials and their staff in an attempt to influence those officials’ decisions.
Lobbying at a professional level is done primarily by paid advocates who are employed by companies, associations, or even individuals, to advocate on their behalf. Lobbying occurs with personal visits, including office meetings, committee testimony, even telephone conversations. Lobbying also occurs through written communications such as research reports, advocacy letters, grassroots contacts, and even the news media. Lobbying can be at times challenging, fascinating, intellectually interesting and at other times perhaps mundane.
Some have described lobbying activities as being either direct or indirect lobbying. Direct lobbying is often defined as meeting in person with legislators and staff and providing them with information relevant to their decision making. Indirect lobbying is usually defined as grassroots advocacy. The intended result is to have constituents and other interest groups contact elected and appointed officials and their staff. Indirect lobbying also involves the use of the news media, sometimes called earned media. The lobbyists who are successful can benefit from the media attention for or against a public policy issue or even a particular piece of legislation or regulation.
Almost every interest has a lobbying organization. Heck, even lobbyists have their own organizations at both the federal and state levels. While many folks only think of lobbyists as paid professionals, there are also many volunteer lobbyists, whether paid or volunteer the US Constitution specifies the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
As protected speech lobbying will always have an important role in governmental deliberations. In fact, the lobbying profession is a necessary and appropriate part of the political process and a part of our democracy. Decisions made by the federal, state and local governments impact individuals, groups, and organizations. Those who are impacted, appropriately, want to influence those individuals who make decisions impacting these groups and organizations. Decision-makers also want to understand the impacts of their decisions. As a result, lobbyists are needed to communicate the impacts of those decisions.
You can find a transcript of today’s podcast here.