That sounds sarcastic, but it's actually not far from the truth. When it comes to paid political lobbyists, there is a relationship between the cost of the firm and the amount of political access they provide.
The highest paid lobbyists know that they can charge top dollar for their services because they can offer their clients access and influence at the highest levels of government. Not surprisingly, these firms' client lists are a "Who's Who" of the American corporate scene; hiring these firms is simply beyond the reach of most organizations and special interests.
But thanks to the abundance of lobbyists in Washington D.C. and state capitols, good lobbying firms exist at multiple price levels. Unless you're interested in being invited to the White House for dinner with the President, you should have no trouble finding a firm that meets your organization's budget parameters. Here's what to expect . . .
Pricing varies widely from one firm to the next. In general, cost variables tend to include the size of the firm, the amount of time that will be required to achieve your goals, the size of your organization, and the firm's reputation. The best lobbying firms are extraordinarily pricey and may not be your best option, even if you can afford them since they tend to give higher priority to longstanding clients with extremely deep pockets.
Large firms with dozens of lobbyists on the payroll can charge retainer fees of $25,000 per month or more. One-man operations, on the other hand, can cost as little as $5,000 per month and deliver similar results. In addition to monthly retainers, you can also expect to pay the lobbyist's incidental fees and to make political donations to targeted lawmakers. Since most firms require a minimum one-year contract, it's not hard to see how the minimum financial commitment for a paid lobbyist can easily approach six figures.
Cost Management Strategies
Small businesses can minimize their lobbying costs by locating boutique firms that cater to small business owners. These no-frills lobbyists understand the financial limitations of small companies and tailor their services accordingly.
If you aren't interested in lobbying for a contract award or appropriations commitment, consider joining a trade association that already employs a lobbyist. Association lobbyists promote the general interests of association members and keep the association informed about legislative developments.