While not a formal part of state government, professional, ethical lobbyists are recognized as an important management tool for the governmental process.
Professional lobbyists are often the most knowledgeable experts on their particular issue, and they have the political relationships and know-how to get things done.
Professional lobbyists, despite the generally negative impression painted by media reports and the actions of a few, are a necessary part of the equation for governing. They often supply invaluable expertise and staff resources needed to facilitate difficult-to-understand legislation. A professional lobbyist is a professional advocate.
A professional lobbyist can advocate your viewpoint, and they typically work for a certain type of client. By strongly advocating a particular industry’s position, lobbyists provide vital information to legislators and officials regarding the impact on the specific constituencies they both represent.
Legislators don’t know the functions, or important aspects of your industry, your lobbyist does. Lobbying is a serious business. In fact, one analyst wrote, “If you’re in business, you may not be participating in politics, but you are involved.”
Should You Retain A Fulltime Lobbyist?
One of the most important questions that you will need to consider when deciding how to approach your legislature or congress is whether to retain a full-time, or professional, lobbyist on your behalf. The answer to that question depends on a number of factors:
If your objective is to protect the laws allowing your industry and business to prosper in, and your association has grown and matured to the point where it needs to have a more permanent presence in the legislature, it is in your best interest to retain a the services of a professional, ethical governmental relations firm.
For your lobbyist to be effective, you need to work closely with them. You hire the lobbyist for their expertise in the process and their relationships; however, you are the expert in your industry and issues. Your lobbyist tells you when, where, and to whom to present your case. Another objective is to coordinate your organization’s membership into a grass-roots network and to help maintain that network. Just as important is the formation of a Political Action Committee or PAC. See article on this site entitled “What is a Political Action Committee”.
(2) Financial Resources
Obviously an important question is your organization’s financial capacity: Can you afford a governmental relations firm? The real question may be “can you afford not to have a governmental relations firm?”
However, any costs should be weighed against both the savings in time and the potential benefits of using experienced lobbyists, who have ethics, on your behalf. If we can all agree that time is money, then this axiom begs the question, “can your association and business both afford having you and others out of the office for long periods of time, doing the work that is required to promote change and protect your interests in the legislature and congress?
Will the time cost by missed work be more than the financial cost of hiring professionals to represent your interests?”
You must understand what you are up against. There are groups or organizations that would like to take away, or control, what you do for a living. If there is organized opposition to your proposal, then you have to make sure that your industry is able to withstand the pressure opponents might use.
Furthermore, if you are in support of something, some group is against it. Therefore, it is vital you understand how important are laws protecting your industry, as well as your business, on a daily basis. A professional lobbying firm is your industry’s eyes and ears in the legislature and congress while you manage your daily business.
In conclusion, retaining the services a lobbyist is the same as retaining an accountant or management consultant. You are retaining a professional with specialized expertise. This allows you to focus more on the overall mission of your organization and the success of your business.
Most importantly, don’t retain, at any price, a lobbyist who is not trusted and respected by the legislature. Not only must they have a strong work ethic, all respected lobbyists have strong professional ethics as well. The minute you retain a lobbyist, or lobbyists, their reputation becomes the reputation of you and your industry, and retaining the services of a lobbying firm whose reputation is one of experience, integrity, and ethics with governmental officials makes the difference between winning and losing for your industry, your business, and your association.