By Manny Jacobson
What exactly comes to mind when people think about lobbyists?
The answer turns out to be quite surprising. There are wide variety of answers Many individuals actually have no clue as to what a lobbyist is. Some of those who think they have an inkling as to what one is, tend to believe that they just high paid political activists trying to sell an outrageous idea to elected officials. This is not exactly 100% factual.
For todays adventure, our happy, cohesive group made a trip to the Department of Health and Human Services. On our way to our meeting with the No Labels organization in Georgetown, we experienced a slight delay due to Vice President Joe Biden leaving a nearby business.
Lastly, on our schedule was a meeting with two Drake Alumni, Mr. Paul Doucette and Mr. Matt Thornblad both are now lobbyists in the D.C. area. A lot interesting and somewhat surprising facts.
To start off, lobbyists are everywhere, and for just about every profession. If you are a dentist, the American Dental Association has lobbyists. Do you have a car and use AAA? There is at least one lobbyist employed by AAA. Depending on your age, you may utilize programs like AARP. Guess what? There are lobbyists for that as well.
There are two classes of lobbyists. Those that are officially registered with the government and those that are not. There are anywhere from 15,000 to 17, 000 officially registered lobbyists. That being said there are tens of thousands of people in the Washington D.C. area that are not registered and almost play the role of the weekend warrior. People are arguing and pursuing a point of view, but they go until they get a response for their actions or ideas. At this point they stop and go back to their normal lives as teachers, plumbers, firefighters, etc.
Registered lobbyists also arguing and pursuing a point of view. The exception is, this is their normal life. After one idea or viewpoint is exhausted, they move on to the next one.
The registered lobbyists actually have a chance to talk to congressional member directly.
As a registered lobbyists, whether self-employed or employed by a lobbying firm, these lobbyists are required to report their activity. In the case of Mr. Doucette and Mr. Thornblad, they have to report their activity quarterly.
Lobbyists are often represented by the persona that is portrayed in the media. the personalities portrayed are again 100% accurate. As Eric Anderson stated in his most recent blog, lobbyists do not all live the very flashy lifestyles. In fact, most of their days are spent doing research and other grunt work to prepare for the one chance to present in front of elected officials. If they are not prepared to fight for their client’s idea, they will more than likely not be able to convince anyone to believe and support the idea.
Essentially, lobbyists are just the middle man trying to get a client’s idea to elected officials in hope of gaining support to potentially implement the idea into a law. If there is an idea that comes across their desk that they have personal conflicts with, they will pass it on to someone else in their firm. If it is a small organization, they may choose to not represent the client. That being said, in most cases, the lobbyist will put their feelings aside and just power through it.
All in all, lobbyists have a pretty demanding and stressful job that gets them scrutinized a lot in the public eye. It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it.