How to find a lobbyist

Are you looking for a lobbyist?  Here’s some tips.  If you’d like a more specific recommendation, please see the Recommended Lobbyists page.

As far as I know, there isn’t any kind of directory or comparison or rating system for federal lobbyists.  It took me a while to find a good source of information about lobbying firms, but I did finally find one.  Hopefully I can save you the same trouble.

OpenSecrets.org maintains a lobbying spending database that tracks all money spent on lobbying to the U.S. government.  This information is pulled from reports that all lobbyists are required to file each quarter, listing how much money they received from each of their clients for their services.  In addition to being a very good source of information about how much your competitors are spending on lobbying, this is also one of the best places to find lobbying firms.

Note: A reader also pointed me to a similar directory for state lobbyists (check the links in the side bar or click here to visit the site).  This site also has the capability for state lobbyists to add information about their firms, and for clients to rate the lobbyists, but the site is new so there isn’t much information in that department yet.  So I suggest you put in the state and leave the “Business Sector” field blank to see a list of all lobbyists for your state.

Among other things, OpenSecrets.org lists lobbying expenditures by the following:

Note: The links above will take you to the detailed lists for each category.  If you surf from the main page, the first page will only show the top 10 in each category, but there’s an option near the top of the page to show the full alphabetical list, which is much more complete and finer-grained.

In addition, the site allows you to search by the following (use the first combo box at the top of the search page):

  • Client name
  • Lobbying firm name
  • Individual lobbyist name

It also allows you to narrow the results down by specific year or ranges of years if there’s data for multiple years (using combo boxes near the top of the page).  So to find lobbying firms that specialize in the areas you’re interested in try the following (warning: I’m an engineer – high level of detail follows):

  1. Decide your budget
    • How much do you want to spend in the first 12 months?
    • How much did your competitors spend last year?
      • Search for them in the database, both by their name and their parent corporation name, if any.
      • This is especially important if you want to win a government contract they they’re also competing for.
  2. Search on the sector, industry, issue, or agency most appropriate for your project.
  3. If you have the option of choosing a year (a combo box near the top of the page), choose the most recent year in the database (i.e., 2008).
  4. Go through the list of contracts in that area, and find organizations that are similar to yours, or that you believe have projects or interests similar to yours.
  5. For each organization found:
    1. Click through to the page for that organization.
    2. For each of the lobbying firms they hired, click through to the page for that firm.
      • Note: If the lobbying firm name matches the organization name, it means the organization has their own permanent lobbying staff – this won’t help you.
    3. Look through their list of clients and the dollar amounts of each of their contracts
      • Find clients you believe are similar to you, with dollar amounts close to your budget.
    4. If you find several matches, write down the firm name.
    5. As you go through the firms, each time the same firm shows up again, put a tic mark next to it.
  6. When you’ve gone through all the contracts found in the first search, start over at step 2 (above), doing a 2nd search on another area.
    • For example, if you searched on industry the 1st time, try searching on issue or agency the 2nd time around.
  7. After you’ve finished your searches, pull out the names of the top 3-5 firms (the 3-5 firms with the most tic marks).
    1. Look each of the firms up in a web search.
    2. Review their web site.
      • Go through the whole thing, including any bios listed – there’s often useful information here.
    3. Get their contact information.
    4. Call them and interview them over the phone.
      • For a list of questions to ask, see Questions to ask a lobbyist.
    5. Call their references (see Questions to ask a lobbyist).
  8. Set meetings with 2-3 finalists in Washington D.C.
    • Travel to DC and meet them in their offices.
    • You’ll learn alot about them and how they do business by visiting their office.
  9. If you need the support of anyone else in your organization, make sure they meet the lobbyists too.
    • If your team can’t travel with you to meet the lobbyists in D.C., arrange with the lobbyists for them to travel to visit you and meet your team at your office.
      • This trip (for them to come visit you) should be paid for by them, not you – it’s a sales opportunity for them.

Good luck, and please leave a comment with your feedback.

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One Response to “How to find a lobbyist”

  1. Mark Davis MD Says:

    Excellent reference. I recently became a Federal Lobbyist for health care and found an excess amount of resistance to my registration. Laywers are welcomed, physicians need not apply, was the sense I felt when my ap went to the House and Senate offices. After Obamacare was forced on us, it appeared that conservative lobbyists had failed to make their mark. Hopefully I can make a dent. Mark Davis MD President of Heathnets Review Services


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