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Definition: Lobbyist

A lobbyist is a person paid to petition political representatives on a particular issue. Corporations, labor unions, and other special interests lobby Congress and federal agencies, hoping to secure favorable policies. Lobbyists might not be mentioned in the US Constitution, but those in the persuasion business wield extraordinary power.

So where does the influence come from? Special interest groups often endorse and raise money for candidates. Once a candidate is elected, the group (or lobby) calls on the official to oppose or support legislation. Lobbyists will educate representatives, circulating favorable policy research.

Special interest groups spend billions of dollars each year to retain lobbying firms located on Washington's infamous K Street. Other groups employ in-house lobbyists. keeps a database of all the money spent on lobbyists. Just one example—since 1998, the pharmaceutical and health product industry has spent $1.2 billion on lobbyists.

Lobbyists also raise public attention on behalf of a cause, as opposed to a corporation or individual. For example, an organization committed to AIDS research can use collective action to draw attention to issues individuals would not raise on their own.

Join The Conversation
penelope829 penelope829 9 years
Hrmm. I am in lobbyland, and the description above isn't really accurate. It's a lot more complex than simply donating money and hoping for the best. Lobbyists usually support Members they've already worked with on an issue. In short, who they know. Lobbyists must file quarterly disclosure reports (as of 08, previously semiannual) that detail their activities. As for contributions, most lobbyists are making those on behalf of a federal multi-candidate PAC- and their contribution limits are higher ($5k per election, primaries and special elections counted separately) than the individual cap of $2300 per election mentioned above. I agree that there are always going to be bad people in every bunch, but discounting an entire profession because of a few bad apples is overkill.
CAcyclegirl CAcyclegirl 9 years
Hmm, well I lobby at the state level on behalf of a non-profit and represent people living with HIV/AIDS. My organization does not make any financial contributions to candidates and because we are a registered 501C-3 we are not allowed to endorse candidates. The work that I do helps educate legislators about issues that affect people with HIV/AIDS and we advocate for sound public policy on behalf of this population. I never strongarm anyone but try to use sound reason and data to back up my position. I understand the image the public has about lobbyists and don't argue that there aren't people like that out there but I think that DCStar and others should educate themselves more about the profession before making blanket comments about an issue they clearly don't fully understand.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
lol DC!
DCStar DCStar 9 years
Lobbyists are like the bullies that steal your lunch money, make you cry and wont stop until they get everything their way. They are some of the most despicable and yet most powerful people in Washington. Basically, they don't care about the system and will manipulate things to get what their deep-pocketed clients want. I think it's a sick profession and should be illegal. It's total strongarming BS.
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
A lot of people have told me I should be a lobbyist because I'm so passionate and persuasive. But I'm also very emotional and I always cried during debates in debate club.
geebers geebers 9 years
I was going to hop on to defend the not-for-profit lobbyists but I see that some of you have beat me to it! I agree that not all lobbyists are corrupt. Some are actually representing important organization/associations.
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Yay K Street! :)
annebreal annebreal 9 years
Maybe on the national level it's all really corrupt, but here locally there's a lot of really good lobbying groups. I thought about interning with a group called United Senior Action here in Indianapolis (it's early and I'm only 80% sure that was their name), and while they're paid, because it is their dayjob, they stick to senior issues and are just squeaky wheels, often talking to representatives at the state house and drumming up public support for legislation that benefits seniors. Basically the group lobbies for themselves. I'd love to get into lobbying as a social worker after I get out of grad school...just not in the way you're describing.
LibbyEAW LibbyEAW 9 years
Before everyone gets a bad impression, it should be said that lobbyists do not just work for large corporations and throw around money to promote the goals of some CEO. They can be especially beneficial working for Universities, Associations for Nurses or Physicians assistants, Non Profits etc. Additionally, there are strict rules behind lobbying practice and how much money can be spent on Reportable staff and the legislators themselves. Further, there are also "Revolving Door" rules to prevent people from going straight from the government side to the lobbying side.
onabanana onabanana 9 years
Maybe he has nothing to sell? I have no idea, I'll go read up on him.
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 9 years
1.2 trillion dollars? And the majority of Americans trust the pharmaceutical industry. This is the tip of the iceberg of reasons that I, for one, do not. And yes I've heard that the lobbyists have never even bothered stopping by to see Ron Paul. I like a man who can't be bought!
onabanana onabanana 9 years
Lobbyist don't just work for large companies many work for "Associations." The term "lobbyist" came about as a description of those waiting in the Lobby of the Willard Intercontinental hotel to speak to President Lincoln regarding matters of interest. To be an official lobbist you must practice an go though some process. I'm not sure if it's certification or what but it's not as simple as contributing money and waltzing in later. Also I think political campaign contributions must be limited to I think...$2300 a quarter, or year per person...something along those lines.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
Oh ok now I see why and how they get paid a lot of money.
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
Have y'all seen Thank You For Smoking?
divinedebris divinedebris 9 years
I think lobbying is primarily used by big companies that want something out of the government and tend to be more corrupt that helpful. I disliked Fred Thompson because he was a lobbyist during the 80's. McCain was named for taking tons of money from lobbyists during the 80's, one of the reasons I don't like him. Lobbyists don't even go near Ron Paul's office, love that!
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