The decision to hire Washington lobbyists is momentous for small to medium businesses, non-profits, and associations. If you fall into one of these categories, chances are you feel caught between the choice of spending outsized amounts on professional representation, or trying to go it alone when striving for a voice on Capitol Hill. You must take extra care in analyzing the cost vs. benefit of hiring a lobbyist, compared with big industries like oil and pharmaceuticals whose budgets seem limitless.
Fortunately, there are new opportunities emerging for small businesses and others. Innovative lobbying firms, like Lobbyit, are opening doors in the otherwise closed environment that limits access to legislators and their staff members. These are the people who ultimately determine which laws govern our ways of doing business and living daily lives. It is your right to make your case to them as they draft and approve—or oppose—legislation.
Know Your Rights
If you have doubts about your right to lobby legislators at the federal level, know that under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you are guaranteed the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievance.” Looking for a historical precedent for lobbying? The practice has been a vital part of governing ever since the birth of our nation—even before. In Massachussetts Bay Colony, the Rev. Increase Mather lobbied the Court of King James II for a new Charter of Massachusetts. Later, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the lobbyist, aka “colonial agent,” for Pennsylvania and other colonies.
Why Should You Hire a Lobbyist?
Legislators and government officials consider, draft, and pass legislation every day that could directly affect your business or organization. The decision-makers will be hearing from big business concerns and other deep-pocket stakeholders about your same issues, from taxes to regulations, trade rules, and more. You need to ensure that your voice is heard, and that your point of view rises to the top of the pile.
As an individual or single entity, it is unlikely you will have access to the people who influence change in the halls of power, or that you will know when the time is right to make your concerns known. Professional DC lobbyists know the inner workings of the government, often having served in Congress or as staffers. They have built a network of relationships that serve to open doors and channels of communication so that they can participate when preliminary conversations behind closed doors determine the fate of a proposed bill, or threaten to undo legislation you consider vital.
Lobbying is a more refined and complex process than simply throwing large campaign donations a certain way. It may be much more effective to demonstrate that your issue will generate positive media and appeal to a significant voting bloc. It is the lobbyist’s job to know which approach might influence a specific legislator’s viewpoint.
A skilled lobbyist knows relevant fields of legislation in depth, including technical background and past voting records. Lobbyists will be up on recent changes in the field, and can even help draft proposed new language, serving as a valued resource to legislative staff. Ultimately, the most effective way to move a piece of legislation forward or back is by showing how it leads to or prevents the fulfillment of an overall policy.
How Can You Really Make an Impact?
Competing with global corporations and massive industries for dollars, time, and attention on Capitol Hill can be frustrating and costly. Hiring a lobbyist means finding the right match. Look for one with a strong record in helping small organizations, like trade associations, non-profit interest groups such as nurses, teachers, or bricklayers, municipalities, and educational institutions.
- Check the firm’s success in getting legislation passed on behalf of their clients.
- Join or form a new association of fellow businesses in your industry. Put aside competitive concerns in order to pool resources and find common interests that will elevate the group’s power in addressing key concerns.
- Find ways to be an active participant in the lobbying process, along with the professional firm you hire.
Finally, with innovative approaches to lobbying pioneered by Lobbyit, small businesses and groups can now afford a professional lobbyist. They offer tiered pricing packages with pre-set fees and known deliverables, contrary to traditional lobbying which typically requires a year-long, open-ended contract at much higher rates. Contact Lobbyit today to learn more about their breakthrough approach, and discuss how they can help move your issues to the top of the legislative pile. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-202-587-2736.