How to Successfully Utilize Lobbying Coalitions

Today’s podcast is on utilizing lobbying coalitions. A vital aspect of lobbying in California is to join forces with other similarly situated parties because a larger group is often more powerful and effective than a single voice, or even just a few.

These organized efforts often draw more attention to an advocacy position and allow decision makers to know that many groups share the same perspective on a pending bill or issue. And quite frankly, in most cases, a collective voice is more effective than just a single voice. I think the key to running a successful lobbying coalition is to keep the group cohesive when working for or against an issue or measure.

Lobbying coalitions can also provide other benefits. One is that individual companies or interest groups may not want to be the only ones publicly involved in the bill or issue. As such, a lobbying coalition provides cover, if you will, for others to be more public and vocal with their position. A lobbying coalition can also provide funding to – for example – hire a grassroots firm or a media relations company to work on different aspects of a lobbying campaign.

Coalitions can be a critical component of effective lobbying because elected officials and their staff are often more interested or persuaded on an issue or bill when there are multiple voices weighing in on a particular issue or measure. What would you find more persuasive, an entire industry united in support or opposition to a bill, or just a couple companies?

Lobbying coalitions are also important because they allow for division of labor among their participants by ensuring that all the key legislators are being lobbied on a bill or use. That may not always occur if just one individual or group is responsible for lobbying a particular measure.

Lastly, it’s worth remembering that while it’s often said that two heads are better than one, it’s equally important to keep in mind that too many cooks spoil the meal. Both of these clichés are equally valid when applied to a lobbying coalition, and it’s important for an organization’s leader to be able to assess which one applies in a given situation.




Other Types of Lobbying

Today’s podcast is a follow up on last week’s post about the different types of lobbying clients and services. Today we’ll be looking at other types of lobbying.

Although most lobbying occurs in the legislative and regulatory arenas generally, there are several other types of lobbying – such as grassroots lobbying as well as advocacy before specific agencies that often have unique rules and procedures for lobbying those agencies. Today’s podcast will discuss grassroots lobbying as well as a few of those specialized state bodies that lobbyists should be aware of.

Grassroots lobbying, which is sometimes referred to as indirect lobbying, involves members of the general public as opposed to those directly impacted by a bill or issue. In essence, grassroots lobbying is an effort to cajole members of the general public into contacting their elected officials so that the members of the public are lobbying the decision makers.

This type of lobbying requires educating large groups of individuals and then mobilizing them into some sort of call to action. It usually involves efforts to get specific organizations or community groups to become involved in the efforts to pass or defeat pending legislation or regulations.

Educating the public can take multiple forms: such as direct mailers, social media, paid or earned media, press conferences, etc. Outreach efforts are key to successful grassroots lobbying and the media often play a critical role in these outreach efforts.

Now let’s turn to lobbying some of those specialized agencies. Some of the state agencies that have specialized lobbying rules and procedures include the Public Utilities Commission, PUC, the California Coastal Commission – the Coastal Commission – and the California Air Resources Board – CARB.

In general, a lobbyist is one who is paid to communicate with officials for the purpose of influencing legislative of administrative action. This is the definition of lobbying in the Political Reform Act in the Government Code. In the brief podcast, I go into more depth about some of the specific rules for lobbyists lobbying the PUC.

It’s important for lobbyists to be aware of rules regulating conduct when lobbying different state agencies and departments. These rules need to be reviewed prior to undertaking any activity, and then of course, you have to follow them to ensure proper compliance. Otherwise, both the lobbyists and his or her client could be adversely impacted.




Types of Lobbying Clients and Services

Today’s post is on the types of lobbying clients and services provided. There are several different types of clients that contract lobbyists have, each requiring different levels and types of services. Some clients are at a low end of the service spectrum while other clients are at the very high end, requiring daily attention.

Contract lobbyists may have a myriad of clients in different industries while others may specialize in specific types of clients. Regardless of the subject matter of the client’s interest, there are essentially four types of clients: monitoring, lobbying, consulting, and procurement.

Monitoring clients simply desire to know what is happening at the Legislature and/or with regulatory agencies and the Governor’s office. This type of client requires a lobbyist to monitor relevant legislation and regulations, sometimes budget items, and politics generally involving particular issue areas or industries. As a result of monitoring legislation and regulations, lobbyists may work with their clients to develop strategic plans, designed to meet their near-term and long-term objectives.

The next type of servicing is lobbying. These services can range from supporting or opposing legislation or regulations, or sponsoring bills, to make specified changes in the law. There are essentially three types of lobbying – legislative lobbying, regulatory advocacy lobbying, and budget advocacy.

Legislative consulting and advocacy services usually include research and analysis of policy issues, daily monitoring of legislation introduced and amended, and advocacy for and against legislation affecting clients. Regulatory advocacy is similar, but it’s a world unto its own with separate rules. Lobbyists help their clients meaningfully engage in the public comment period and the formal hearings when regulatory bodies engage in their quasi-legislative activities.

The next type of client and service is consulting. This type of client doesn’t require lobbying or advocacy services, but instead desires to retain a lobbyist to provide consulting or advisory services. These types of clients want active advising regarding what they should be doing such that the lobbyist provides political advice or consulting to the client, such as how to navigate the legislative or regulatory processes, identify viable candidates for open seats, and recommend candidates without actually advocating.

The last type of lobbying service provided is procurement lobbying. These types of lobbyists do not have to register as a lobbyist under the Political Reform Act. In this role, lobbyists try to secure contracts for the purchase of goods or services by the State of California.




Ethics Rules for California Lobbyists

Today’s podcast is on lobbying ethics rules. There are only a few specific laws that address ethical rules for lobbyists.

Beyond those, lobbyists are encouraged to abide by a code of ethics in conducting their professional activities. These include the code of ethics adopted and maintained by the Institute of Governmental Advocates, IGA, an organization to which many Sacramento lobbyists belong, and a code of ethics adopted by the California Legislature.

So what are some of the state’s lobbying laws? For starters, there is the Political Reform Act, the PRA, which was adopted by the voters in a statewide election as Proposition 9 in 1974. The PRA contains the main statutes concerning the ethical rules for the lobbying profession in the state of California. The details of the statute concerning ethical rules are covered in the podcast.

In addition to what is covered in the PRA and Government Code, there are other state laws that impose certain ex parte communication restrictions on the participants in administrative adjudicatory proceedings and before certain state agencies, such as the Public Utilities Commission. There are also revolving door prohibitions that affect public officials who go into the lobbying profession that essentially preclude them from communicating with or appearing before any state agency for which they worked during the 12 months before leaving state employment.

Lobbyists are also subject to criminal laws, including bribery and extortion laws as well as mail fraud, wire fraud, and the infamous RICO statute.

As I said before, in addition to the laws by which lobbyists must abide, there is also a legislative code of ethics that the Legislature adopted for lobbyists. In addition to the legislative code of ethics, the IGA has a code of ethics that lobbyists must abide by.

The details of those codes of ethics can be found in the podcast. Thanks for listening.




Laws Regulating Lobbyists

Today’s podcast is a brief overview of some of the laws that regulate the lobbying profession in California. In the podcast, I go over lobbying laws and campaigns laws, and how they impact lobbyists.

The Political Reform Act of 1974, often referred to as the PRA, was adopted by the voters as Proposition 9 and is the main law governing lobbying ethics and political campaigns. Note that some cities and counties have locally adopted ordinances regulating lobbying activity as well.

The PRA charges the Fair Political Practices Commission, also known as the FPPC, with enforcing the PRA. I will leave most of the details of the laws regulating lobbyists to the podcast, and here, direct you to where in the Government Code and California Code of Regulations you can find the various laws regulating lobbyists.

The purpose of lobbyist regulation as stated in the PRA is found in Title 9. It reads:

The activities of lobbyists should be regulated and their finances disclosed in order that improper influences will not be directed at public officials.”

Chapter 6 of Title 9 deals specifically with lobbyists. Chapter 6 contains Sections 86100 through 86300. In addition to the laws found in Government Code provisions, the FPPC has adopted regulations on lobbying. Those regulations are contained in Title 2, Sections 18109 through 18997 of the California Code of Regulations.

Article 1 of Chapter 6 of the Government Code sets forth the registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists, Article 2 of the Government Code deals with prohibitions, and Article 3 of Chapter 6 deals with specified exemptions. Again, I go over the contents of those articles in the podcast. The laws I have pointed to here specifically deal with lobbying – you’ll need to listen to the audio for a discussion on how campaign laws impact lobbyists.