Lobbyist Hiring Tips

  • Ask each lobbying firm for a list of references – past clients you can contact.
    • Specifically, ask them for past clients with issues similar to yours.
    • Naturally these people will only say good things (otherwise the lobbyists wouldn’t give you their names).
      • But if none of the references are similar to your organization, and none have issues similar to yours, it’s a clue that the lobbyist may not have experience (at least successful experience) in your type of issue.
  • Plan (and budget) for travel to Washington D.C. at least a few times a year
    • Your lobbyist will need to set up face-to-face meetings for you with lawmakers and staff at least a few times during the course of your lobbying effort – the lobbyists can’t do everything for you.
  • Budget for additional expenses
    • Lobbyists will charge you for incidental expenses, including things such as:
    • Travel (usually just cab fare or parking or similar fees, unless you ask them to come out and meet you at your offices after you hire them).
    • Printing and copying costs (for briefs and presentations they give to lawmakers and staff on your project).
    • Registration fees (if you ask them to attend an event for you in D.C.)
      • Note that this doesn’t include political donations – your lobbyist can help you with these as well, but it’s a totally different story (see Why do I need a lobbyist? for more details).
  • Plan for a 1-2 year effort.
    • Most lobbying efforts take some time. There’s a few reasons for this:
      1. It simply takes a while to move anything as large as our federal government.
      2. Timing is important, and sometimes the timing window opens up only once a year (or even longer…)
      3. In some types of issues (such as appropriations) there’s an unwritten understanding that those who have been lobbying longer have priority – or as my lobbyist puts is “you can’t cut to the front of the Costco line on Christmas Eve”
    • So expect a 1-2 year effort for most issues.
  • Keep in mind that all lobbying expenses are public records.
    • So whatever you spend, and whatever issue you spend it on, will become public knowledge.
    • This means:
      • Don’t ask a lobbyist to work on a secret project for you.
      • Choose the title of your project carefully to keep it accurate without giving away any competitive information.
  • Make sure to look up your competitors’ lobbying efforts.
    • In addition to giving you good information about your competitors, it’s also important to avoid a conflict of interest.
      • If you both hire the same lobbyist, and you both end up bidding for the same government contract, it will be an issue.
  • If you have a large budget for lobbying, consider hiring more than one lobbying firm.
    • Large companies often hire multiple firms.
    • This can allow you to target different areas with firms that specialize in each area, or to cover your bases on a really important issue (especially if the different firms have strong relationships with different lawmakers).

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