What is Lobbying?
Although lobbying is an ancient art as old as government itself it is still frequently viewed with suspicion. It is, in fact, a legitimate activity protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law....abridging the freedom of speech....or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
The term "lobbyist" came into usage early in the 19th century, although stories of its origin vary. One account describes "lobby-agents" as the petitioners in the lobby of the New York State Capitol waiting to address legislators. Another version of the story describes the lobby of the Willard Hotel as the meeting site for both legislators and favor-seekers during the early 1800s. Either way, by 1835 the term had been shortened to "lobbyist" and was in wide usage in the U.S. Capitol, though frequently pejoratively.
The caricature is as familiar as the name: portly, cigar-smoking men who wine and dine lawmakers while slipping money into their pockets.
Because the lobbying profession is so little understood, it is often viewed as a sinister function, yet every "mom and apple pie" interest in the United States uses lobbyists a fact little known by the general public.
Simply put, lobbying is advocacy of a point of view, either by groups or individuals. A special interest is nothing more than an identified group expressing a point of view be it colleges and universities, churches, charities, public interest or environmental groups, senior citizens organizations, even state, local or foreign governments. While most people think of lobbyists only as paid professionals, there are also many independent, volunteer lobbyists all of whom are protected by the same First Amendment.
Lobbying involves much more than persuading legislators. Its principal elements include researching and analyzing legislation or regulatory proposals; monitoring and reporting on developments; attending congressional or regulatory hearings; working with coalitions interested in the same issues; and then educating not only government officials but also employees and corporate officers as to the implications of various changes. What most lay people regard as
lobbying the actual communication with government officials represents the smallest portion of a lobbyist's time; a far greater proportion is devoted to the other aspects of preparation, information and communication.
Lobbying is a legitimate and necessary part of our democratic political process. Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and information must be provided in order to produce informed decisions. Public officials cannot make fair and informed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties. All sides of an issue must be explored in order to produce equitable government policies.
Books on Lobbying
ABA Lobbying Manual, by William V. Luneburg, Thomas M. Susman and Rebecca H. Gordon, Editors – (Discount available for ALL Members) - A complete guide to federal laws governing lawyers and lobbyists. This easy-to-use guide, with examples and forms, answer both common and esoteric questions that might arise when lobbying the federal government. The book covers not only the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, but also includes comprehensive information covering the numerous federal statutes, regulations, congressional rules and ethics restrictions application to both lawyers and lobbyists. Available from the American Bar Association in Chicago, IL.
Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna R. Gelak - A thorough yet practical presentation of the profession’s body of knowledge, the book includes lobbying strategies, resources and methods for maintaining compliance and staying abreast of ethical and legal requirements, as well as step-by-step guides for communicating with policymakers. Available at http://www.LobbyingandAdvocacy.com.
The Lobbying Compliance Handbook, by Lobbyists.info – Set up in spiral notebook fashion, the book is a comprehensive summary of laws, rules and regulations governing lobbying at the federal level. Includes historical and “how to” information as well as over 300 pages of appendices of actual law language and forms. Available at www.lobbyists.info.
The Ethics of Lobbying: Organized Interests, Political Power and the Common Good – Published by the Woodstock Theological Center, the book is the result of a project exploring the purpose and method of ethics in lobbying, ethical challenges facing lobbyists, the integrity of the Democratic process and includes a hypothetical case study. Available from Georgetown University Press in Washington, DC.
Lobbying and Government Relations: A Guide for Executives, by Charles S. Mack (ISBN 0-89930-390-0) – Written for executives of corporations, trade associations, labor unions and other organizations, some of the information is outdated but the book still provides good information about the origin and history of lobbying, the environments affecting lobbying, and some of the types and techniques of lobbying. Available from ABC-CLIO Press at 1-800-368-6868, extension 1.
Testifying Before Congress, by William N. LaForge. - A comprehensive new guide to preparing and delivering testimony before Congress and Congressional hearings for Agencies, Associations, Corporations, Military, NGOs and State and Local Officials. In 400 pages, LaForge prepares potential witnesses for every eventuality, including using actual briefings and rehearsals. The book delves beyond preparing testimony and witnesses into conducting a political analysis of relevant issues, committee members, timing and other related circumstances to ensure a thorough understanding and successful outcome. Information available at http://www.thecapitol.net/Publications/testifyingbeforecongress.html
Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson. - This book is designed for executives and others who visit congressional leadership in Washington, and shows them how to make those visits effective. It is a practical book, packed with wisdom and experience. For less than the cost of a cab ride to the airport, executives can learn how to stop wasting their time when they visit Washington. http://www.thecapitol.net/Publications/PersuadingCongress.html
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Last updated: September 28, 2011