Lobbyists have a unique role in our society. By speaking on the behalf of certain industries or special interest groups, lobbyists try to influence votes and lawmaking at all government levels. Anyone who aims to become a lobbyist should pay attention to certain laws and regulations.
- Skill level:
Figure out what kind of lobbyist you want to become. Working for a lobbying firm is much different than lobbying on the behalf of one group. Most lobbyists have educational and professional backgrounds in politics, journalism or the fields that they represent.
Look into lobbying opportunities at local public relations firms. Many lobbyists begin their careers working in PR where they can build the communications and representational skills required to work at the federal level.
Ask different local groups if they need representation. You want to sell yourself as someone who knows and understands how to communicate with lawmakers. You'll need to educate yourself on the stance of these groups before you approach them.
Register with the federal government. If you are paid more than $6,000 to lobby on the behalf of a group or company during a six-month period, then you are required to register with the government. Additionally, most states have laws that lobbyists must follow when they work at the state level.
Get to know local congressional members. Attend fundraising banquets and other events run by the politicians that you currently or expect to work with later. Lobbyists are allowed to make political donations provided that they follow the same guidelines that other American citizens are held to.
Tips and warnings
- As you explore a career as a lobbyist, be aware of the long work hours you might have to work occasionally. When a bill is up for vote it is not uncommon for lobbyists to spend all night making phone calls and planning last-minute strategies.
- Be aware that working for a lobbying firm may require that you represent groups you don't necessary support. For example, ask yourself if you'd have personal conflicts of interest if you had to represent a large cigarette company and lobby for leaner laws on tobacco advertising.
- You should know that some lobbyists have bad reputations among the some parts of the general public because of the special-interest groups lobbyists represent.
- Failure to properly register as a lobbyist with Congress can net fines of up to $50,000.
- Be aware that even if you donate to a politician's election campaign, he is not legally required to always cast votes in your favor.