10 Questions for Your Lobbyist
01. DO I REALLY NEED A LOBBYIST?
“Most people have someone representing their interests on Capitol Hill already, whether they know it or not,” says veteran lobbyist Will Edington. If you don’t know who your allies, enemies and potential strategic partners are, hiring a lobbyist can help.
02. HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Brand-name firms charge up to a six-figure annual retainer for their formidable connections; OpenSecrets.org will tell you who others in your industry have retained and for how much. “The intimidation factor shuts out a lot of people,” says Paul Kanitra, whose start-up firm Lobbyit.com offers services from $995.
03. SHOULD I CARE WHETHER YOU’RE A REPUBLICAN OR A DEMOCRAT?
Yes and no. Yes, because new admissions to the lobbyist ranks can have particularly close ties to their former Capitol Hill colleagues, and when you’re trying to sway the members of a partisan majority, these connections matter. But the more seasoned the lobbyist, the more friends he or she will have on both sides of the aisle.
04. CAN YOU ISOLATE THE ISSUES WHERE MY INTERESTS CONFLICT WITH THOSE OF MY INDUSTRY PEERS?
If you’re in, say, finance, hordes of existing lobbyists are in theory addressing your issues. But they may be pushing for solutions that don’t specifically benefit your business and might even hurt it.
05. WHAT’S YOUR GAME PLAN FOR NAVIGATING CLIENTS THROUGH THE POST-CITIZENS UNITED LANDSCAPE?
Since the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate funding of political broadcasting, interest groups have unleashed a tsunami of advertising to sway opinion on an array of legislative initiatives. A good lobbyist should know your local ad buyer community as well as he does the Rayburn building.
06. SINCE SO MUCH OF POLITICS DEPENDS ON “ENEMY OF MY ENEMY” CALCULATIONS, CAN YOU PINPOINT MY ENEMIES?
Whatever your agenda, groups exist to sabotage it. Industries like the megabanks and oil companies maintain an outsized Hill presence, so getting anything they oppose accomplished can make you the object of a vicious smear campaign. Best to know in advance from where it hails.
07. HOW, WHEN AND TO WHOM DO I WRITE CAMPAIGN CHECKS?
Be discriminating: Get in early with experienced candidates facing contested races, or wait until their coffers have been depleted and they really need your help. Lobbyists say that those least receptive to their concerns at the moment are GOP freshmen. “They just don’t get it,” grumbles a Republican appropriations lobbyist.
08. WHAT CAN’T A LOBBYIST DO FOR ME?
Bad publicity and fiscal pressure is speeding the end of budget earmarking, so beware of the lobbyist whose main credentials are cozy relationships with veteran pork-barrelers.
09. WHAT’S YOUR STRATEGY FOR TAX REFORM?
Hammering out the details of the monster health care and regulatory reform bills will preoccupy thousands for years—but serious changes in the tax code could have a far greater impact on your bottom line.
10. WHAT KINDS OF FEDERAL FUNDING CAN YOU HELP ME ACCESS?
With fiscal belt-tightening pushing many public officials to privatize public services, opportunities to score government contracts abound, while publicity over poorly run public employee pension funds could also create opportunities.
For more information, contact: Gina Bancroft, the American League of Lobbyists, firstname.lastname@example.org, 703.960.3011; Will Edington, Edington, Peel & Associates, email@example.com, 202.737.1800; or Paul Kanitra, Lobbyit.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.587.2736.