Lobbyists can be found at all levels of government. At the local and state levels, lobbyists work to get contracts and grants, tax breaks and various perks for their clients. And at the federal level they lobby for government contracts, exemption from regulations that would hurt their clients, tax breaks and more. Lobbyists act as an auxiliary to congressional staffs by providing information, support and help in disseminating information between legislators.
What Lobbyists Do
Lobbyists activities are based on the season -- whether the legislature is in session or not and if there is a pending election. In session, lobbyists meet with staffers and legislators to represent the interests of their client organizations and keep their clients up-to-date on developments in the legislative process. Lobbyists attempt to influence legislation, in some cases helping to draft the language. Lobbyists respond to legislators' requests to attend fund-raisers and in election season throw their weight behind the candidate who supports their issues. While there is no set schedule for a lobbyist’s day, the activities tend to be repetitive.
A hypothetical day starts with breakfast at the Rayburn House Office Building with several staffers who work for a freshman congressman. The meal is congenial, because the congressman shares many of the interests that the lobbyist supports. During breakfast and the informal meeting that follows, the lobbyist explains details of a pending bill. This is an invaluable service since lawmakers and their staffs are inundated by more bills than they can read. After the meeting concludes, the lobbyist checks emails, noting several invitations to fund-raisers. The morning concludes with a meeting with another congressman’s staffer to help draft a bill, inserting language supportive of a client.
Lunch is a working meal, spent with several other lobbyists whose clients share common interests. After comparing notes with them, the lobbyist heads for the Russell Senate Office Building to meet with the chief of staff of a veteran senator who will be facing stiff competition for reelection for the first time in years. The lobbyist agrees to attend a fund-raiser sponsored by a political action committee and discusses the senator’s position in an upcoming vote. The lobbyist spends the rest of the afternoon coaching a congressman with questions to ask at an upcoming hearing.
The evening begins with telephone calls to clients, updating them on the events of the day. It’s a two-way give-and-take with one who is concerned that the political tide is moving against him. With an election looming near, a change in political power in the Congress could spell doom for critical bills. The calls are followed by a fund-raising dinner. While the lobbyist cannot donate too much money directly to the politician’s campaign, he arranges for several wealthy backers to have private meetings with the candidate in exchange for donations to a PAC. Another evening, the schedule might have called for dinner with a congressional delegation to thank them for their supportive votes.
Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.