The Lobbying Profession

Simply put, lobbying is advocating a particular point of view. Virtually every special interest has a lobbying representative – including colleges and universities, corporations, churches, charities, industry groups, public interest or environmental groups, senior citizens organizations, even state, local and foreign governments. While most people think of lobbyists as paid professionals, there are also many independent, volunteer lobbyists — all of whom are protected by the same First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Lobbying is a legitimate and necessary part of our democratic political process. Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and public officials cannot make fair and informed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties. All sides of an issue must be explored in order to produce equitable government policies.

The term “lobbyist” came into usage early in the 19th century, although stories of its origin vary. One account describes “lobby-agents” as the petitioners in the lobby of the New York State Capitol waiting to address legislators. Another version of the story describes the lobby of the Willard Hotel as the meeting place for both legislators and favor-seekers during the early 1800s. Either way, by 1835 the term had been shortened to “lobbyist” and was in wide usage in the U.S. Capitol, though frequently pejoratively.

The profession of lobbying involves much more than persuading legislators. Its elements include:

  • Researching and analyzing legislation or regulatory proposals;
  • Monitoring and reporting on developments;
  • Attending congressional or regulatory hearings;
  • Working with coalitions interested in the same issues; and
  • Educating government officials and others on implications of proposed changes to regulations or laws.
  • Communicating broadly and narrowly to various audiences, which include voters, elite opinion makers and the general public.