How much do lobbyists cost?

The #1 question I am currently getting asked is: How much do lobbyists get paid? There’s 2 sides to this question:

  1. How much does it cost to hire a lobbyist?
  2. How much income do individual lobbists earn?

This page deals with the first question – what it will cost you to hire a lobbyist.  And unfortunately, the answer to this isn’t clear-cut.

Every lobbying firm has different pricing, and the pricing will almost always depend on the type of project, amount of work involved, size of the client (that’s you – the size of your company or organization), and expertise of the lobbying firm in the specific areas you need help with.

And I’ve never met a lobbying firm that wasn’t open to negotiation on price.

In general, for a specific and fairly well-defined project, I’ve received quotes from $5,000/month to $25,000/month.  In general, the size of the quote increased as the size of the lobbying firm increased – the highest quote was from a firm with over 70 lobbyists; the lowest quote was from an individual lobbyist running his own shop.

It’s important to know that these prices assumed a contract of at least 1 year.  They will tell you that most of the work in any project is in the first few months – and they’re being honest.  What you’re really paying is a yearly fee, with payments spread out in monthly increments.

It’s also important to that you should expect to pay a premium for a really good firm.  They may be willing to spread the costs out over 2 or 3 years to reduce your monthly fees, but they’ll usually expect to get paid well.  This can be 2 to 3 times the price for a “normal” firm of the same size.

And in this case, if you’re really confident that the lobbyist is good, it’s probably worth the extra.  It’s kind of like choosing a lawyer to defend you against a murder charge, or  a brain surgeon to operate on a life-threatening condition – yes, you can get someone less expensive, but is paying less money really worth it if they don’t get results?  If possible, invest in a good lobbyist; once you get results, you’ll be glad you did.

A few important notes here:

  • Size of Your Organization: Most lobbyists recognize that smaller companies and organizations can’t afford as much as larger ones, and they’ll charge accordingly; some even do pro-bono work for charitable organizations or causes.  But be aware that if you’re paying alot less than most of their other clients, you may not get as much of their attention on your issues.
  • Commissions: It’s against the law for lobbyists to get paid on commission.  Don’t think of them like sales reps – they’re not.  Instead, think of them more like attorneys – you pay them for their services, and if you have the right firm on the right case, they’ll get results.  But if they don’t get results, you still have to pay them.
  • Bonuses: It’s against the law for lobbyists to get paid bonuses.  However, there’s still a way to pay them incentives for performance, in the form of promises for continued business.  It can be tricky to do this in a way that doesn’t run afoul of lobbying laws, so make sure your lobbyist knows what they’re doing when they set up the contract, and if you can, get it reviewed by an attorney familiar with lobbying ethics laws.  It’s only fair that you should want your lobbyist to be rewarded for your success, so they have incentive to do a good job for you; but the lobbying rules can make this challenging.  Be careful.

2 Responses to “How much do lobbyists cost?”

  1. The “Intel program’s” on Mosey’s husband’s blog are from Mike Rinder again « ILoveMyOriginalMartyBlog Says:

    [...] However, Senators, Representatives and their Aides might chuckle about the USD 3000 because lobbyists of other organisations are getting paid a lot more that what GM got: http://lobbying101.wordpress.com/about-lobbyists/how-much-do-they-charge/ [...]

  2. Self-driving cars as a target for philanthropy | Rational Altruist Says:

    [...] As best I can tell, google is responsible for most lobbying directly relevant to driverless cars, though it wouldn’t be too surprising if automakers contributed much more towards shaping indirectly relevant legislation. According to the WSJ, Google spent only $140k lobbying to get driverless cars approved in california; their total budget for federal lobbying is about $20M, though the vast majority concerns wrangling over anti-competitive practices. I would be quite surprised if their lobbying efforts for self-driving cars exceeded $2M (based on a very weak understanding of how lobbying works and standard prices, see e.g. here). [...]


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