What is a Lobbyist?

Lobby

Do YOU know what a lobbyist does?

Sure, gets paid millions to purchase politicians … BAZING!

But really, lobbyists are a real profession, and you should know what they do:


First: What do lobbyists do?

The objective of a lobbyist isn’t to wine and dine politicians — though that can be written off as job expenses (just like a salesperson at any company). No, the goal isn’t go offer vacation packages for a vote. ** But does this stuff happen? Of course, every now and then. Just like virtually EVERY profession in the world, there’s ethical violations pretty much all the time.

But does this mean that the lobbyist field as a whole isn’t valid? Not at all. In fact, lobbyists are extremely important, and not all lobbyists are paid (MIND BLOWN).

A lobbyist can be anybody who cares about a group of people, or a cause. That person engages directly with a representative to discuss concerns, problems, and solutions.

Effective lobbyists bring forward a problem …

EXAMPLE

We’ll use the example of a group of hotel owners, of Asian descent (and yes, there is a group that is for Asian hotel owners). Now this group has a few interests, 1) enhancing the perception of Asian Americans, 2) getting business, 3) having to pay as few taxes as possible, and 4) having as few regulations as possible on their business.

Out of those desires, you can effectively frame a few problems. 1) The Asian American image problem, is probably more PR than political, but a lobbyist could draft policy proposals to enhance that image on a larger scale. 2) The hotel owners want more business, which means they want development of land around where their hotels are (conference centers, attractions, malls, etc …), and perhaps the lobbyist pitches offers to development firms after they lay approval at a governmental level (permits and whatnot). 3)  Lobbyists in this case are interested on eliminating any added tax to hotel businesses (I know a lot of times hotels are hit for new stadiums). And 4) lobbyists representing these hotel owners will try and strip away as many regulations as possible, and all levels of  government.

So, the lobbyists job is to effectively pitch these ideas to the representative in the hopes that some of these proposed bills will be actually heard and voted on.

What happens is something like this: Lobbyist walks into a Congressperson’s office and sets an appointment. The lobbyist has prepared a 10-minute presentation including 1) defining problems, 2) offering solutions, and 3) even having drafted examples of what the bills could look like. The Congressperson can then look at them further, or reject them. Most often the Congressperson’s analysts would pour over the bills and revise them, and so-fourth — so it’s in the best interest of the lobbyist to throw everything and the kitchen sink in the first draft — in the hopes that some of it survives the revisions.


 

Where’s the controversy in all this?

A lobbyist can be paid by a firm, and if the lobbyist is self-employed or getting paid in any way, then they must disclose that they’re a lobbyist to both Senate and the House. Also, lobbyists can’t be solicited for donations from political parties.

Here’s the problem: We all know that politicians want to keep their seats, because it’s their job. BUT, that means winning elections. This means the politician is straddling the line between following his constituents on one hand, and getting money for re-election on the other.

Say Congressperson X supports the Asian hotel owners association (because it promotes the hotel industry more broadly, not only Asian Americans). BUT, the people who vote in his district aren’t interested in hotels — because it’s an agricultural district.

The hotel owners association can offer pre-drafted legislation AND a donation for his next election. The farmers can’t. If this legislation is supported by Congressperson X, then he kind of wins and kind of doesn’t. On one hand, he has more money to win an election the next time, but on the other, he’ll face public backlash for not taking up agricultural concerns.

… At the end of the day, the voting population is what matters, but Congresspeople know that the turnouts are low for elections and they can spin the hotel legislation as job-creating; hence, they’ll take the money to ensure a win (because chances are their opponent: 1) won’t have an established base, and 2) won’t have the funds for TV ads, a big staff and the consultants needed to get their name out there and win.

As of 2014, here are the biggest spenders (by job sector) on lobbying efforts (at the FEDERAL level, not state or local — remember we have multiple levels of government):

Pharmaceuticals/Health Products – $65,420,126
Insurance – $40,008,093
Electric Utilities – $38,288,418
Computers/Internet – $35,597,059
Business Associations – $35,448,590
Oil & Gas – $33,880,219
TV/Movies/Music – $28,511,338
Securities & Investment – $26,670,959
Misc Manufacturing & Distributing – $23,650,110
Hospitals/Nursing Homes – $21,985,808

Unsurprisingly, Obamacare affected Pharma and Insurance — and lobbyists are out to fight for their bottom lines (profits, for those of you not hip to business lingo).

As for the rest of the sectors … I’ll let the reader interpret why they lobby as much as they do.


HEY EVERYONE:

You don’t need to be paid to be a lobbyist, you really just need passion and not to be lazy. Anybody can care about stuff and bring it up with their representatives, and if your representative is a person who cares about people, they’ll at least listen.You’ll get more points if you organize and show that you have some sway over votes, for sure.

You never know what relationships you could build.

PLUS, if you get to know the people up on the Hill (your state hill, that is … or even local city board), you never know what people might want to pay for your skills.

I mean really, some of these lobbying groups in Washington (mostly on K street) make ridiculous amounts of money — probably like CEO-level money. Because, like a good CEO, good lobbyists can save companies LOTS of money, which is worth the initial investment.

Also, there are professional organizations for lobbyists — so it is, in fact, a profession. Overall, most are ethical, and adhere to guidelines and regulations.

But are there shitbag lobbyists running around? Of course, but the majority is still an ethical group of people. It’s exactly like any other profession. I can think of shitbag CEOs, horrible supervisors, and “job creators” who use ridiculously unethical tactics to get profits. But is the enterprise of business, as a whole, awful? Not at all — there’s just a portion of people within business who are awful.

So think about that.

And now, good citizen, go forward and lobby!

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3 thoughts on “What is a Lobbyist?

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