Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to hire a lobbyist

I have been thinking that there are also groups out there who might want some ideas on how to find and pick a lobbyist who are new to the experience. It never ceases to amaze me how many interest groups there are out there...and those groups usually form because of governmental policy, good or bad. So, if I'm in one of these groups and I'm trying to find a lobbyist, where do I begin? First, I would say that the group should have a clear goal in mind. Do you want one specific law/regulation defeated or enacted or are you looking for some ongoing representation? In general, I would say that if you find there is an advocacy need now, there will likely be one later. Will they work year-round or just during session (if you live in a state with a part-time legislature). Second, decide the structure in which oversight of the lobbyist will occur. Who do they report to and how often do they need to provide updates? Third, define what are their measurements of success. Killing or enacting a proposal is nice, but all that does is likely postpone future actions for another date. How did the lobbyist's actions help you long term? Next, what's your budget? Not only their contract salary, but are you going to provide any incidental budget items like entertaining (meals, event tickets, etc.) There are going to be lobbyists for any budget, but you will get what you pay for. Ask around and find out what lobbyists charge in your state. In most states, there are lobbyist regulators who should have varying degrees of reports available. In Indiana, you can see what groups spend on lobbying online by looking it up on the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission. Those are some general thoughts to get started, but once you have a goal, how do you pick the "right" person? The short answer is you never know for sure, but finding someone who believes in your issue/cause is a great start. Hiring someone who already has multiple clients across a range of issues may be perfectly fine and they may be outstanding lobbyists, but if you hire someone like that, they are likely lobbying for the money, not because YOU fit their beliefs/interests. A good lobbyist should be able to interact with all kinds of different people with varying degrees of ease. Not every legislator is going to agree with your issue, but if your lobbyist is effective, he/she can at least develop a good rapport with them...or at minimum should not agitate them or do your group more harm. Integrity is key as well. I've seen plenty of legislation become law because someone passed out contributions, meals, tickets, etc. Money can grease the wheels in some cases, but once you start down that path, it's hard to slow that train. Do you want them to get the job done no matter what (and how much are you willing to pay for it), or do you want someone who will advocate based on the issue itself. Ok, enough for now. As always, I'm happy to answer questions on this or any other topic. Thanks for reading.

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