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Lobbyists are public relations workers who use different techniques to influence legislators in favor of their clients' special interests. Successful lobbyists must be very familiar with the legislative process; they understand how to gain access to politicians and their staff members. They also must be knowledgeable about the interests they represent. Although some work on a voluntary basis, most lobbyists are paid by the large businesses, industry trade organizations, private individuals, unions and public interest groups they represent. Lobbyists may be on the payroll of the interest groups or businesses they represent, or they may be salaried employees of a large lobbying firm.
Education and Experience
Most lobbyists hold degrees in political science, business, journalism, law, communications, finance or public relations. College students interested in becoming lobbyists often participate in government-related internships as congressional aides, in governments agencies or with lobbying firms while in school. Although no formal education is required, many lobbyists are professionals with college degrees who have changed careers. Because lobbyists must gain access to important individuals, relationships and connections are crucial. Lobbyists who once held jobs in politics or high-profile jobs in law or public relations are the highest paid workers in the field. Newer lobbyists must spend five to 10 years developing contacts in order to make salaries nearing $100,000.
Direct Lobbying Efforts
Lobbyists who engage in direct lobbying meet with legislators and the organizations they represent to provide them with information about their interests. They work to understand bills and issues; they conduct research to determine possible outcomes and effects of laws passed.
Lobbyists speak with politicians, other lobbyists and advocates directly, holding impromptu conversations or quick meetings as well as longer, formal ones. They host events, make phone calls and stay visible to key individuals in the legislative process. Lobbyists often put in long hours when congress is in session. Because lobbyists are salaried employees of firms or organizations, these extra hours are considered part of the job. The benefits, however, often outweigh the time spent. Lobbyists host and attend the cocktail parties, events and dinners that influence and benefit the causes they serve.
Although lobbyists and the groups they represent cannot make large campaign donations to politicians directly, they do raise money from other sources for re-election campaigns. Lobbyists may also work to get their employers a federal appropriation or other funding for a specific need; they provide information to congressional offices that must be submitted to a committee or agency for funding approval.
Indirect Lobbying Efforts
Lobbyists may also influence politicians by writing, calling or demonstrating on an organization’s behalf. They may work to get public approval for specific causes or actions. These lobbyists use the media to get the community involved, writing articles for newspapers and magazines, and appearing on talk shows and webcasts in an attempt to sway public opinion. They also report community concerns to politicians through the media, phone calls or letters.
Indirect lobbying may help an organization get a grant award from a federal agency. Lobbyists may call for letters of support from members of congress to ensure that an application receives notice. They often also draft letters of support and ask individuals or organizations to sign them in support or opposition to an issue. Indirect lobbying efforts are considered part of the job, even though they aren't very glamorous or fun; however, the end result can be favorable for the lobbyist's interests. Higher success rates mean higher salaries when it comes to lobbying.
Lobbying Salaries and Expenditures
Lobbying has steadily increased since the year 2000, with more than 2,300 government and public educational institutions spending more than $1.2 billion in public money to address their causes. Lobbyists may be employed by firms that provide lobbying services to clients; in 2010, more than 13,000 registered lobbyists worked for more than 2,000 firms. Organizations, businesses and other clients pay the firms to promote their industries or causes.
Groups may substantially benefit from lobbyists; therefore, the cost for paying for lobbying services can be minimal compared to the financial gains made from subsidies, reduced regulations or other effects of changes to the law. Other lobbyists are directly employed by an organization or business who keep lobbyists on staff to promote their interests.
The salary of a lobbyist varies widely from employer to employer. In 2011, the average salary of a lobbyist was $62,000. Lobbyists who have extensive contacts or experience in the field they represent are paid significantly more than inexperienced ones.
Kendall Olsen has been writing for more than 20 years She is a University of Missouri-St. Louis Gateway Writing Project Fellow and has published instructional materials with the McDonald Publishing Company. Olsen holds an Ed.S. in educational technology, an M.Ed. in secondary English curriculum and instruction, a B.S. in elementary education and a B.A. in art history.