Lobbying Advice for Business Owners
How to Find a Lobbyist
You've decided that your association needs a lobbyist. But now comes the hard part - finding the lobbyist or lobbying firm that fits your goals and budget.
A good lobbyist has the ability to communicate your organization's concerns to lawmakers and play a positive role in the drafting of legislation that benefits your business or trade association.
But good lobbyists are hard to find, especially since the most influential lobbyists command six and seven figure fees.
Unlike other third-party providers, lobbyists don't typically advertise to small companies or organizations. So to find a lobbyist, you're going to have to drive the process yourself. The process is further complicated by the fact that lists of lobbying firms are rare and many lobbying firms have a vested interest in flying under the radar of the general public.
Personal referrals are always the best way to identify prospective lobbyists. Ask around your business network or even cold call other organizations to request direct referrals. But if you're efforts don't yield results, you'll need to roll up your sleeves and launch a more in-depth search process.
Before You Search
There are more than 12,000 professional lobbyists in the U.S. political system. Your goal is to create a short list of two or three firms that you can interview in person. But before you start the search process, there are a couple of things you'll need to decide. First, you will need to think about how much you can afford to set aside for a paid lobbyist. Most firms require monthly payments and a minimum one-year contract. If there isn't room for at least $60,000 (just in retainer fees) in your annual budget, a paid lobbyist isn't an option. Before you launch your search, you should also consider what you hope the lobbyist to accomplish. Specific, targeted goals may make a paid firm worth the investment.
How to Find Lobbying Firms
- State lists. Many states are required to publish lists of lobbyists who work in the state. Although you may need to dig a little for the information, there is a good chance your state's public records will contain a list of paid firms and lobbyists.
- OpenSecrets.org. Open Secrets is a site dedicated to preserving transparency in government. They provide a wealth of information about the lobbying industry and their advanced search tool makes it possible to identify individual firms who specialize in a variety of industries.
- News searches. Lobbying firms frequently appear in news items about business and politics. A simple Internet news search (limited to articles from the past twelve months) can generate a list of firms that can be used as a starting point for your search.
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