ART OF LOBBYING
To lobby is to attempt to influence decisions made by government officials. This is most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.
Whether lobbyists work for large organizations, private individuals, or the general public, their goals and strategies are the same. First and foremost, lobbyists must be adept at the art of persuasion, which is the mainstay of their job. They must figure out how to sway politicians to vote on legislation in a way that favors the interest they represent. This means tailoring appeals to specific individuals as well as to group voting blocs, such as "Southerners" or "pro-choicers."
Lobbyists also occasionally lobby one another. When normally opposing groups find a common area of interest and can present a united front, they are extremely effective. Lobbying can be direct or indirect. Direct lobbying means actually meeting with congressmen and providing them with information pertinent to a bill being voted on. The lobbyist imparts information with the help of graphs, charts, polls, and reports that have been specifically hunted up or created. Needless to say, this is usually information that the politician might not otherwise have access to, that casts the matter in a light favorable to the interest the lobbyist represents. Sometimes, lobbyists will even sit down and help a politician draft legislation that is advantageous for their interest. Maintaining good relations with politicians who can be relied on to support the lobbyist’s interest is key. While lobbyists and their employers cannot themselves make large campaign donations to politicians, they can—and do—raise money from other sources for reelection campaigns.
To be successful at all of this, the lobbyist must be well informed, persuasive, and self-confident. Personal charm doesn’t hurt either, and lobbyists will often engage in social activities like hosting cocktail parties, which allow them to interact with politicians and opponents in a less formal atmosphere. Indirect lobbying, sometimes referred to as grassroots organizing, is a bit less glamorous. Grassroots lobbyists enlist the help of the community to influence politicians by writing, calling, or demonstrating on the organization’s behalf. This means long hours spent on the phone and writing letters, trying to rouse the community to get involved. These lobbyists also report to politicians about the concerns and reactions they have gotten from community members. Indirect lobbying is also done through the media. Grassroots lobbyists write articles for newspapers and magazines and appear on talk shows to generate interest in and awareness of their issues.
Lobbyists tend to work long hours. Between forty and eighty hours per week is normal, and when a bill is up for vote, they will usually work through at least one night. But the least attractive part of being a lobbyist may be the profession’s less-than-spotless reputation. While most are undoubtedly scrupulous, some lobbyists have been known to grease a palm or two where persuasion falls short, and the rest must suffer the public’s mistrust. These honest lobbyists, who represent every segment of society, take refuge in the knowledge that they are working to promote causes they believe in.