If an individual qualifies as a “lobbyist” or an activity counts as “lobbying” based on the definitions of these terms, a whole host of laws may come into effect. Registration, disclosures, gift restrictions and prohibitions – all of these and more depend on the definitions of lobbying and lobbyist.
States generally define lobbying as an attempt to influence government action through either written or oral communication. However, each state may have unique elements for what constitutes lobbying, exceptions to the definitions, and exceptions to those exceptions.
Lobbyists are not simply individuals who engage in lobbying. As an example of one common exception, a legislator attempting to gather support for a bill through the normal course of legislative operations would not be considered a lobbyist. A constituent making a call to a policymaker regarding a matter of personal concern would similarly be exempt.
The definition of a lobbyist typically revolves around lobbying on behalf of another for compensation. Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Texas, Wyoming and New York stipulate compensation thresholds, so that an individual is required to register only after receiving a certain amount of compensation.
The following table provides definitions of lobbying, lobbyist, and other related terms from the respective states statutes.
This table is intended to provide general information and does not necessarily address all aspects of this topic. Because the facts of each situation may vary, this information may need to be supplemented by consulting legal advisors. All content is up to date through 09/03/2021.
What Is Lobbying and Can It Be Good?
What does a lobbyist do?
Whether working for a large corporation or a small civic group, lobbyists’ main job is to promote their clients’ agenda. They want to gain legislators’ support to propose, pass, amend or defeat legislation or change existing laws and regulations. The type of client lobbyists work for affects the specific tasks that they do.
Here are some common duties of a lobbyist:
Creating publicity materials
Lobbyists develop materials that promote their causes, such as pamphlets and videos. They may distribute materials to the public and government members to influence them to support their cause.
To create the change they want, lobbyists research issues, policies and pending legislation. They determine how various laws and regulations affect their clients or causes and how to introduce new legislation that will benefit them. Since different laws can be complicated, they need to research all details to have a thorough understanding of the matter.
Explaining the impact of bills or laws
After speaking to legislators and their staff, lobbyists explain to their clients what the effects of a particular bill or law might be. This may require attending legislative committee meetings and hearings to gather necessary background information.
Lobbyists need to form relationships with various members of government bodies to ensure they present their causes to the right people. They should also be able to develop a rapport with influential public figures who can assist in causes.
Lobbyists must be prepared to appear before members of the government to present their objectives. They may need to speak in a public setting, but they may also have one-on-one meetings or in small groups to discuss details.
Educating and influencing others
A lobbyist may need to educate government officials on certain topics before they can explain why their causes are important. One of the most important tasks of any lobbyist is to influence public opinions as well as the opinions of those in a position to make and change the laws.
Preparing disclosure reports
Nearly all states require periodic disclosure reports from lobbyists and those who hire them. This requires public reports on how much money was spent, what issues were lobbied and which officials benefitted from the expenditures.
What is a lobbyist?
A lobbyist is a professional advocate who works to influence political decisions on behalf of specific organizations and people. As official members of the political process, lobbyists are intricately involved in the creation and implementation of new laws.
Lobbyists’ actions typically lead to the proposal of new legislation or amendment of existing laws and regulations. However, lobbyists cant pay politicians for their votes so rules are in place regarding disclosures, gift restrictions and prohibitions.
Some individuals make lobbying a full-time profession while others may lobby part time or as a volunteer. All lobbyists need to register with their state to show theyre acting on behalf of a specific company or interest.
How to become a lobbyist
If you are interested in becoming a lobbyist, you will need to complete the following steps:
1. Earn a college degree
Most employers prefer that you have at least a bachelor’s degree. Common degrees for this field include political science, communications, journalism or economics. You can also get a degree in the area you plan to lobby in, such as environmental science or criminal justice. To further your knowledge in a specific subject, you can also earn your masters degree. Earning a masters may also qualify you for more positions and increase your earning potential.
2. Complete an internship
As youre completing your degree or directly following graduation, seek out internships to gain practical experience. Work with your college adviser to find an internship with a lobbying firm or a company that employs lobbyists.
During your internship, youll likely learn how to research legislation and stay current on the latest bills, attend debates and hearings and assist a registered lobbyist to perform other duties. Interning can also help you form valuable connections in the lobbying field.
3. Register as a lobbyist
Every state or federal legislature in the United States requires professional lobbyists to register before lobbying. You need to fill out an initial registration form with the government including personal information, details about your client and who you plan to interact with during your lobbying efforts. Registration fees may cost up to several hundred dollars. Each state has its own lobbying laws and registration requirements, so do your research.
4. Establish a network
To be a successful lobbyist, you should connect regularly with policymakers, legislators, legislative staff and other lobbyists. You should also network with members of the public who can influence government members. This will require regular attendance at events such as conferences, meetings and debates. You may also need to meet with officials informally to maintain good relationships.
Frequently asked questions about lobbyists
As you consider a career as a lobbyist, you may have questions about the career. Here are answers for commonly asked questions:
How much does a lobbyist make?
Salaries for lobbyists and these professionals depend on experience, education and who they work for. Earnings range from $14,000 to $206,000 per year.
Where do lobbyists work?
Where a lobbyist works depends on the type of lobbyist they are. Most spend their days in an office environment, but they also meet with politicians in lawmakers’ offices, legislative buildings, other companies’ headquarters and at public hearings. Meetings make up the majority of their typical day.
Industries employing lobbyists may include:
As exciting and rewarding as working in politics may be, it is also demanding. Long hours, pressure to succeed, frequent travel and the uncertainty of the election cycle can all contribute to a busy and potentially stressful career.
Are there different types of lobbyists?
Lobbyist applicants can register as:
What skills do lobbyists need?
What are some related careers?
Here are careers that are similar to being a lobbyist: