“Soft” lobbying is a new form of lobbying some corporations are pursuing in addition to traditional lobbying efforts through Washington lobbyists. In the past, corporations would retain the services of registered lobbyists from top lobbying firms to help support their causes and objectives. However, with the shift in lobbying contributions and donations, largely due to the Obama administration, lobbyists were finding their efforts restricted. As a result, corporations were not achieving the desired results.
With “soft” lobbying, corporations make donations to non-profit agencies, who, in turn, use the money to help influence and shape policies within the government. The best way to think of this form of lobbying is it is a “back door” to gain influence and attempt to sway politicians toward a group’s objectives, but without a “frontal” assault, so to speak.
To further illustrate the concept of “soft” lobbying, it is best to provide this example. Back in 2014, one of the first “soft” lobbying efforts was launched by Citizens for Health. Its objective was to encourage the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to require better labeling on food and beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup. Their campaign even extended to educating consumers.
However, what was not well-known then was the group received the majority of its financial support from numerous companies within the sugar industry. Sugar companies are highly competitive with corn syrup producers, and have been for years. The use of Citizens for Health was a wise move to help influence policies within the government.
Not just sugar firms are employing “soft” lobbying tactics. There are growing numbers of other operations in numerous industries, as well as personal interest groups, utilizing non-profits and other outlets, like funding research to support expert testimony, to sway public opinions, and, therefore, to direct the decisions being made in Washington.
One of the main benefits of taking this approach is not having to deal with the rules and regulations registered lobbyists must adhere to, like having to publicly list where they obtained their donations. Currently non-profits are not required to share this information, so their list of donors can remain anonymous.
The trend has been evident in the steady decline in donations being made to registered lobbying firms. Corporations are reinvesting the money they previously donated to registered lobbyists by using “soft” lobbying, since there are no reporting requirements on how much they invest in non-profits to help influence public and political opinions and laws.
This does not mean traditional lobbying is going to disappear. With the pending presidential election, both Democratic and Republican nominees have been receptive to lobbying and support from K-Street firms. As such, depending upon the outcome of the election, there could potentially be a shift once more in the methods corporations will utilize in the future. To discover how Lobbyit can help businesses of all sizes, even small businesses, contact us at 202.587-2736 and have your voice heard where it matters most.