Lobbying Locally: Some useful hints

This information is courtesy of Al Frascella, Director of Communications and Government Relations, National Council for the Social Studies*

  1. The best time to lobby is when you don’t need anything.
  2. “The lower you shoot, the higher you hit.” Lobby staff first, then members of the committee, the chair, and gatekeeper committees. Lobby leadership last, if at all.
  3. There is no unimportant staff. You may not need a staff person’s support but you can’t afford his or her opposition. Build warm relationships with staff.
  4. Lobby to get lawmakers to “partner” with you. You must show why partnering with you is good for him or her politically. Lawmakers are “customers”. Customers buy to meet their needs, not yours.
  5. “Facts don’t vote.” Lawmakers each vote their own peculiar political calculus. Seldom are material facts alone sufficient to get votes; political facts may be.
  6. One size doesn’t fit all. Tailor your lobbying to the needs of that targeted lawmaker whose vote you are trying to get at the moment.
  7. Lawmakers are almost wholly motivated by special interests. Don’t waste time with opposing lawmakers but keep lobbying the groups that support them.
  8. Coalitions multiply influence. They exist for advantage, not for love, loyalty or debt. Don’t pre-qualify or disqualify a potential partner. Politics makes strange bedfellows.
  9. The more work you do for the legislation the more likely your ideas will become law. Materials that don’t help staff do their jobs end up in the trash.
  10. Most committee votes are won or lost at fish fries, not in committee meetings.
  11. Nobody cares about your issue as much as you do. Neither money nor good contracted lobbyists can win your battle for you. If you don’t make it happen, it won’t.

(*Adapted from Robert Guyer, Esq., Engineering The Law, Inc., Advocacy Training for the Competitive Edge, 2004.)