How to Become a Lobbyist
Lobbyist Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Lobbyist
Influential Professional Lobbyists
Leading Organizations for Lobbyists
Top Cities for Lobbyists
Other Careers of Interest
Many lobbyists get their start working in the public relations field. Checking public relations firms for lobbying-related positions is an excellent way to break into this profession.
Another idea is to become familiar with the plight of local groups or organizations that may benefit from representation. Once familiar with their issue, contact them and offer to become their lobbyist. Present yourself as someone who can further their cause by communicating with local politicians and decision-makers.
Familiarize yourself with the local political scene and the players by attending fundraisers and functions for area politicians. Get to know them and become known. Lobbyists are allowed to contribute to political campaigns as long as they follow the same rules as all other citizens.
Lobbyists attempt to effect change (or non-change as the case may be) by influencing people with policy-making authority (usually elected officials). These attempts to influence can be made in several ways.
Money is always one possible way to attempt to influence people, especially politicians running for election or re-election. While there are limits to the amount that one person can donate to a candidate's campaign, there is no limit to the number of people that a lobbyist can direct to donate. Therefore, if a lobbyist is representing a large group of people, they may be able to influence a candidate by promising to have a large number of followers donate to the politician's cause. Generally, as long as these followers are not coerced into donating, this is perfectly legal.
Another way a good lobbyist may attempt to gain influence for their cause is by building a network of contacts within a region that they can bring together when needed to unite on a given issue. Often politicians will be willing to proverbially "scratch each other's back" in exchange for support on each other's issues. For example, a good lobbyist may be able to bring officials A, B, and C to the table and have them all agree to support each other's causes assuming that the issues do not contradict or adversely affect each other. All the while, the lobbyist might really only be interested in issue B. This tactic still benefits them as long as issues A and C don't affect the outcome of Issue B.
Successful lobbyists also possess strong verbal and written communication skills. The ability to be persuasive, charming, or charismatic can be helpful at times, also. Lobbyists also need to be resilient and tenacious as it can sometimes be very challenging to convince people to see things your way, especially if there is another group of people (possibly with their own lobbyists) trying to convince the same people of the opposite.
It is important to note that most lobbyists are required to register with the federal government in order to legally ply their trade. Anyone who earns more than $6,000 or spends more than 50 hours lobbying for a particular group in a 6-month period must register. Additionally, most states have special laws that must be followed when lobbying at the state government level.
Retired U.S. Senator and former Vice President Robert "Bob" Dole has kept himself very active since his failed bid for the presidency in the early 1990's as a high powered Washington D. C. lobbyist for the firm of Alston & Bird. While he claims he does not lobby, others (including his wife Senator Elizabeth Dole) state that he is, without doubt, one of the most powerful and connected lobbyists in Washington today.
Alston & Bird is one of the largest and most well known law firms in the world that specialize in lobbying.
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