The ability of individuals, groups, and corporations to lobby the government is protected by the right to petition in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Lobbying is a protected activity under the U.S. Constitution that guarantees rights to free speech, assembly, and petition to government. Lobbying is a regulated activity.
Lobbyists are typically very knowledgeable about the legislative process and know who the decision makers are relative to congressional staff and Members of Congress. Lobbyists assist in the preparation and presentation of information, arrange testimony for congressional hearings, and arrange and attend face-to-face meetings with congressional staff and/or Members of Congress or agency officials. The goal is a positive impact on decision makers so as to affect the process in Washington, D.C.
In many cases, lobbyists serve as an “extension” of a congressional office staff. Given the hundreds of bills and amendments introduced during each legislative session, it’s impossible for legislators to gauge the potential effects that each may have on affected groups or individuals. Lobbyists assist staff by communicating often complicated issues and by knowing how to break an issue down into relatively small and simple parts. The goal is to simplify the learning process of the member or congressional staff person, yet provide them with accurate and timely information. In this regard, lobbyists perform a valuable service not only to their client but to the staff and Members of Congress as well.
A lobbyist’s success is based totally on his or her reputation and credibility. Giving bad advice or incorrect information to Congress is quickly noted and long remembered. In the lobby world, you are given only one chance to make a mistake and lose the credibility that’s necessary for success.
How can a lobbyist help you? By way of example, a congressman represents some 500,000 people, the interests of dozens of towns and cities, several counties, and hundreds of businesses. If you want to do everything possible to make sure your needs are known by that Member of Congress, you need a Washington office and staff that advances your needs. A lobbyist works to make sure your needs stay high on the agenda and makes sure others don’t get a competitive advantage. Not having Washington representation can leave a client at a serious disadvantage. Time constraints, the work load within a congressional office, the work of competitors, and the complexity of issues make the services of a lobbyist an absolute necessity.