Interest Group Strategies

Direct Lobbying

Direct lobbying is used to influence legislative bodies directly via communication with members of the legislative body.

Learning Objectives

Describe direct lobbying

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • During the direct lobbying process, the lobbyist introduces to the legislator information that may supply favors, may otherwise be missed or makes political threats.
  • Direct lobbying is different from grassroots lobbying, a process that uses direct communication with the general public.
  • Direct lobbying is often used alongside grassroots lobbying.

Key Terms

  • legislative bodies: Legislative bodies are a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend and repeal laws.
  • direct lobbying: Direct lobbying refers to methods used by lobbyists to influence legislative bodies through direct communication with members of the legislative body, or with a government official who formulates legislation.
  • grassroots lobbying: A process that uses direct communication with the general public, which, in turn, contacts and influences the government.

Direct lobbying refers to methods used by lobbyists to influence legislative bodies through direct communication with members of the legislative body, or with a government official who participates in formulating legislation.

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Direct Lobbying: Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are subject to direct lobbying tactics by lobbyists.

During the direct lobbying process, the lobbyist introduces to the legislator information that may supply favors, may otherwise be missed or makes political threats. A common use of direct lobbying is to persuade the general public about a ballot proposal. In this case, the public is considered to be the legislator. This aspect of direct lobbying attempts to alter the legislature before it is placed on the ballot. Communications regarding a ballot measure are also considered direct lobbying. Direct lobbying is different from grassroots lobbying, a process that uses direct communication with the general public, which, in turn, contacts and influences the government.

Washington, D.C. is the home to many firms that employ these strategies. Lobbyists often attempt to facilitate market entry through the adoption of new rules, or the revision of old ones. They also remove regulatory obstacles for a company looking to grow, while also stopping others from attaining regulatory changes that would harm a company’s cause.

Meta-analysis reveals that direct lobbying is often used alongside grassroots lobbying. There is evidence that groups are much more likely to directly lobby previous allies rather than opponents. Allies are also directly lobbied if a counter lobby is brought to light. When groups have strong ties to a legislator’s district, they will use a combination of grassroots and direct lobbying, even if the legislator’s original position does not support theirs. When strong district ties are not present, groups will rely on direct lobbying with committee allies.

Direct Techniques

Lobbyists employ direct lobbying in the United States to influence United States legislative bodies through direct interaction with legislators.

Learning Objectives

Identify the direct techniques used by interest groups to influence policy and what groups would use them

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Revolving door is a term used to describe the cycling of former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists while former lobbyists are pulled into government positions.
  • There have been several efforts to regulate the lobbying sector including the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
  • Direct lobbying is different from grassroots lobbying, a process that uses direct communication with the general public, who in turn, contacts and influences the government.

Key Terms

  • Honest Leadership and Open Government Act: The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, signed September 15, 2007 by President Bush, requires a quarterly report on lobby spending, places restrictions on gifts to Congress members, provides for mandatory disclosure of earmarks in expenditure bills, and places restrictions on the revolving door in direct lobbying.
  • Lobbying Disclosure Act: The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 signed into law by President Bill Clinton was revised in 2006 to require the registration of all lobbying entities to occur shortly after the individual lobbyist makes a first plan to lobby any highly ranked federal official.
  • direct lobbying: Direct lobbying in the United States consists of methods used by lobbyists to influence U.S. legislative bodies through direct interaction with those who have influence on the legislature.

Direct lobbying in the United States consists of methods used by lobbyists to influence the United States legislative bodies. Interest groups from many sectors spend billions of dollars on lobbying. There are three lobbying laws in the U.S. that require a lobbying entity to be registered, allow nonprofit organizations to lobby without losing their nonprofit status, require lobbying organizations to present quarterly reports, places restrictions on gifts to U.S. Congress members, and makes it mandatory for earmarks to be disclosed in expenditure bills. Revolving door, when a former federal employee becomes a lobbyist and vice-versa, occurs in the direct lobbying sector.

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Washington D.C., Lobbyist Central: As Washington D.C. is the seat of the United States Federal Government, it attracts a high concentration of lobbyists.

Theory

Lobbying is a common practice at all levels of legislature. Direct lobbying is done either through direct communication with members or employees of the legislative body, or with a government official who participates in formulating legislation. During the direct lobbying process, the lobbyist introduces statistics that will inform the legislator of any recent information that might otherwise be missed, and may make political threats or promises, and/or grant favors. Communications regarding a ballot measure are also considered direct lobbying. Direct lobbying is different from grassroots lobbying, a process that uses direct communication with the general public, who in turn contact and influence the government.

The most common goals of lobbyists are:

  • to facilitate market entry through the adoption of new rules, or the repeal or revision of old ones.
  • to remove regulatory obstacles that prevent the growth of a company.
  • to stop others from attaining regulatory changes that would harm the business of one’s company’s or one’s cause.

Direct lobbying is often used alongside grassroots lobbying. When groups have strong ties to a legislator’s district, those groups will use a combination of grassroots and direct lobbying, even if the legislator’s original position does not support theirs, which may help groups expand their coalitions. When strong district ties are not present, groups tend to rely on direct lobbying with committee allies.

Spending

In 2010, the total amount spent on lobbying in the U.S. was $3.5 billion. The top sectors for lobbying as of 2010 are financial, insurance, and real estate, with $4,405,909,610 spent on lobbying. Health is the second largest sector by spending, with $4,369,979,173 recorded in 2010.

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Spending on Lobbying: This graph compares the number of lobbyists with the amount of lobby spending.

The oil and gas sector companies are among the biggest spenders on lobbying. During the 2008 elections, oil companies spent a total of $132.2 million into lobbying for law reform. The three biggest spenders from the oil and gas sector are Koch Industries (1,931,562), Exxon ( ), and the Mobil Corporation (1,192,361).

Lobbying Laws

Lobbying Disclosure Act

The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Under a January 1, 2006 revision, the act requires the registration of all lobbying entities with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The registration must occur within 45 days after the individual lobbyist makes a first plan to lobby. Penalizations include fines of over $50,000 and being reported to the United States Attorney.

Public Charity Lobbying Law

The Public Charity Lobbying Law gives nonprofit organizations the opportunity to spend about 5% of their revenue on lobbying without losing their nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service. Organizations must elect to use the Public Charity Law, and so increase the allowable spending on lobbying to increase to 20% for the first $500,000 of their annual expenditures. Another aspect to the law is the spending restrictions between direct lobbying and grassroots lobbying—no more than 20% can be spent on grassroots lobbying at any given time, while 100% of the lobbying expenditures can be on direct lobbying.

Honest Leadership and Open Government Act

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was signed on September 15, 2007 by President Bush, amending the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. The bill includes provisions that require a quarterly report on lobby spending by organizations, places restrictions on gifts to Congress members, provides for mandatory disclosure of earmarks in expenditure bills, and places restrictions on the revolving door in direct lobbying.

Revolving Door

Revolving door is a term used to describe the cycling of former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, while former lobbyists are pulled into government positions. Government officials with term limits form valuable connections that could help influence future law-making even when they are out of office. The other form of the revolving door is pushing lobbyists into government positions, developing connections, and returning into the lobbying world to use said connections. A total of 326 lobbyists are part of the Barack Obama Administration. In the past, 527 lobbyists were part of the Bush Administration, compared to 358 during the Clinton Administration.

Indirect Techniques

Grassroots lobbying asks the public to contact legislators concerning the issue at hand, as opposed to going to the legislators directly.

Learning Objectives

Identify the indirect techniques used by interest groups to influence legislation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A grassroots lobby puts pressure on the legislature to address the concerns of a particular group by mobilizing that group, usually through raising public awareness and running advocacy campaigns.
  • A group or individual classified as a lobbyist must submit regular disclosure reports; however, reporting requirements vary from state to state.
  • The unique characteristic of grassroots lobbying, in contrast to other forms of lobbying, is that it involves stimulating the politics of specific communities.

Key Terms

  • indirect lobbying: Grassroots lobbying, or indirect lobbying, is a form of lobbying that focuses on raising awareness in the general population of a particular cause at the local level, with the intention of influencing the legislative process.

Grassroots lobbying

Grassroots lobbying, or indirect lobbying, is a form of lobbying that focuses on raising awareness for a particular cause at the local level, with the intention of influencing the legislative process. Grassroots lobbying is an approach that separates itself from direct lobbying through the act of asking the general public to contact legislators and government officials concerning the issue at hand, as opposed to conveying the message to the legislators directly.

The unique characteristic of grassroots lobbying, in contrast to other forms of lobbying, is that it involves stimulating the politics of specific communities. Interest groups, however, do not recruit candidates to run for office. Rather, they choose to influence candidates and public officials using indirect tactics of advocacy.

Tactics

The main two tactics used in indirect advocacy are contacting the press (by either a press conference or press release), and mobilizing the mass membership to create a movement.

Media Lobbying

Grassroots lobbying oftentimes implement the use of media, ranging from television to print, in order to expand their outreach. Other forms of free media that make a large impact are things like boycotting, protesting, and demonstrations.

Social Media

The trend of the past decade has been the use of social media outlets to reach people across the globe. Using social media is, by nature, a grassroots strategy.

Mass movements

Mobilizing a specific group identified by the lobby puts pressure on the legislature to address the concerns of this group. These tactics are used after the lobbying group gains the public’s trust and support through public speaking, passing out flyers, and even campaigning through mass media.

Trends

Trends from the past decade in grassroots lobbying include an increase in the aggressive recruitment of volunteers, as well as starting campaigns early on, before the legislature has made a decision. Also, lobbying groups have been able to create interactive websites and utilize social media (including Facebook and Twitter) to email, recruit volunteers, assign them tasks, and keep the goal of the lobbying group on track.

Regulations

Lobbying is protected by the First Amendment rights of speech, association, and petition. Federal law does not mandate grassroots lobbying disclosure, yet 36 states regulate grassroots lobbying. There are 22 states that define lobbying as direct or indirect communication to public officials, and 14 additional states that define it as any attempt to influence public officials. A group or individual classified as a lobbyist must submit regular disclosure reports; however, reporting requirements vary from state to state. Some states’ disclosure requirements are minimal and require only registration, while other states’ requirements are extensive, including the filing of monthly to quarterly expense reports, which include all legislative activity relevant to the individual or groups activities, amounts of contributions and donations, and the names and addresses of contributors and specified expenses. Penalties range from civil fines to criminal penalties if regulations are not complied with.

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Bill of Rights: The First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of association, and freedom of petition protect lobbying, including grassroots lobbying.

Cultivating Access

Access is important and often means a one-on-one meeting with a legislator.

Learning Objectives

Describe how lobbying and campaign finance intersect

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Getting access can sometimes be difficult, but there are various avenues: email, personal letters, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, meals, get-togethers, and even chasing after congresspersons in the Capitol building.
  • When getting access is difficult, there are ways to wear down the walls surrounding a legislator.
  • One of the ways in which lobbyists gain access is through assisting congresspersons with campaign finance by arranging fundraisers, assembling PACs, and seeking donations from other clients.

Key Terms

  • access: A way or means of approaching or entering; an entrance; a passage.
  • PACs: A political action committee (PAC) is any organization in the United States that campaigns for or against political candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation.

Access is important and often means a one-on-one meeting with a legislator. Getting access can sometimes be difficult, but there are various means one can try: email, personal letters, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, meals, get-togethers, and even chasing after congresspersons in the Capitol building. One lobbyist described his style of getting access as “not to have big formal meetings, but to catch members on the fly as they’re walking between the House and the office buildings. ”

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Cultivating Access: Connections count: Congressperson Tom Perriello with lobbyist Heather Podesta at an inauguration party for Barack Obama.

When getting access is difficult, there are ways to wear down the walls surrounding a legislator. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff explains:

Access is vital in lobbying. If you can’t get in your door, you can’t make your case. Here we had a hostile senator, whose staff was hostile, and we had to get in. So that’s the lobbyist safe-cracker method: throw fundraisers, raise money, and become a big donor. —Abramoff in 2011

One of the ways in which lobbyists gain access is through assisting congresspersons with campaign finance by arranging fundraisers, assembling PACs, and seeking donations from other clients. Many lobbyists become campaign treasurers and fundraisers for congresspersons. This helps incumbent members cope with the substantial amounts of time required to raise money for reelection bids; one estimate was that Congresspersons had to spend a third of their working hours on fundraising activity. PACs are fairly easy to set up; all they require is a lawyer and about $300.

An even steeper possible reward which can be used in exchange for favors is the lure of a high-paying job as a lobbyist. According to Abramoff, one of the best ways to “get what he wanted” was to offer a high-ranking congressional aide a high-paying job after they decided to leave public office. When such a promise of future employment was accepted, according to Abramoff, “we owned them”. This helped the lobbying firm exert influence on that particular congressperson by going through the staff member or aide. At the same time, it is hard for outside observers to argue that a particular decision, such as hiring a former staffer into a lobbying position, was purely as a reward for some past political decision, since staffers often have valuable connections and policy experience needed by lobbying firms. Research economist Mirko Draca suggested that hiring a staffer was an ideal way for a lobbying firm to try to sway their old bosses—a congressperson—in the future.

Mobilizing Public Opinion

Increasingly, lobbyists seek to influence politics by putting together large coalitions and using outside lobbying to sway public opinion.

Learning Objectives

Differentiate between direct and indirect lobbying efforts

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Efforts to influence Congress indirectly, by trying to change public opinion, are often referred to as indirect lobbying.
  • Larger, more diverse, and more wealthy coalitions tend to be the most effective at outside lobbying (the “strength in numbers” principle applies).
  • Increasingly, in order to influence elections, lobbyists have put together large coalitions and mobilized outside lobbying efforts aimed at swaying and controlling public opinion.

Key Terms

  • indirect lobbying: Efforts to influence Congress indirectly by trying to change public opinion. These efforts depend on the fact that politicians must frequently appeal to the public during regular election cycles.
  • direct lobbying: Direct lobbying refers to methods used by lobbyists to influence legislative bodies through direct communication with members of the legislative body, or with a government official who formulates legislation.
  • public opinion: The opinion of the public, the popular view.

In 1953, following a lawsuit that included a congressional resolution that authorized a governmental committee to investigate “all lobbying activities intended to influence, encourage, promote, or retard legislation,” the Supreme Court narrowly construed “lobbying activities” to mean only “direct” lobbying. The Court defined this “direct” method of lobbying as “representations made directly to the Congress, its members, or its committees”. It contrasted this with indirect lobbying, which it defined as efforts to influence Congress indirectly by trying to change public opinion.

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Mobilizing Public Opinion: Large health notices on tobacco products is one way in which the anti-smoking lobby and the government have tried to mobilize public opinion against smoking.

Increasingly, lobbyists seek to influence politics by putting together coalitions and by utilizing outside lobbying to mobilize public opinion on issues. Larger, more diverse, and more wealthy coalitions tend to be more effective at outside lobbying (the “strength in numbers” principle often applies). These groups have been defined as “sustainable coalitions of similarly situated individual organizations in pursuit of like-minded goals. ” According to one study, it is often difficult for a lobbyist to influence a staff member in Congress directly, because staffers tend to be well-informed, and because they frequently hear views from competing interests. As an indirect tactic, lobbyists often try to manipulate public opinion which, in turn, can sometimes exert pressure on congresspersons, who must frequently appeal to that public during electoral campaigns. One method for exerting this indirect pressure is the use of mass media. Interest groups often cultivate contacts with reporters and editors and encourage these individuals to write editorials and cover stories that will influence public opinion regarding a particular issue. Because of the important connection between public opinion and voting, this may have the secondary effect of influencing Congress. According to analyst Ken Kollman, it is easier to sway public opinion than a congressional staff member, because it is possible to bombard the public with “half-truths, distortion, scare tactics, and misinformation. ” Kollman suggests there should be two goals in these types of efforts. First, communicate to policy makers that there is public support behind a particular issue, and secondly, increase public support for that issue among constituents. Kollman asserted that this type of outside lobbying is a “powerful tool” for interest group leaders. In a sense, using these criteria, one could consider James Madison as having engaged in outside lobbying. After the Constitution was proposed, Madison wrote many of the 85 newspaper editorials that argued for people to support the Constitution. These writings later came to be known as the Federalist Papers. As a result of Madison’s “lobbying” effort, the Constitution was ratified, although there were narrow margins of victory in four of the states.

Lobbying today generally requires mounting a coordinated campaign, which can include targeted blitzes of telephone calls, letters, and emails to congressional lawmakers. It can also involve more public demonstrations, such as marches down the Washington Mall, or topical bus caravans. These are often put together by lobbyists who coordinate a variety of interest group leaders to unite behind a hopefully simple, easy-to-grasp, and persuasive message.

Using Electoral Politics

A number of interest groups have sought out electoral politics as a means of gaining access and influence on broader American policies.

Learning Objectives

Give an example of an interest group making determined use of electoral politics

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • One example of an interest group using electoral politics is the National Caucus of Labor Committees.
  • in 1972, the NCLC launched the U.S. Labor Party (USLP), a registered political party, as its electoral arm. They later nominated LaRouche for President of the United States.
  • The National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC) is a political cadre organization in the United States founded and controlled by political activist Lyndon LaRouche, who has sometimes described it as a “philosophical association”.

Key Terms

  • electoral politics: An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.
  • interest group: Collections of members with shared knowledge, status, or goals. In many cases, these groups advocate for particular political or social issues.
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Lyndon LaRouche: LaRouche was the leader of the National Caucus of Labor Committees, an interest group that later developed a distinct political party that nominated LaRouche for president of the U.S

All electoral politics are interest politics in some sense. Over the course of American history, a number of interest groups have sought out electoral politics as a means of gaining access and influence on broader American policies. One example of an interest group using electoral politics is the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC).

The NCLC is a political cadre organization in the United States, founded and controlled by political activist Lyndon LaRouche, who has sometimes described it as a “philosophical association. ”

In 1972, the NCLC launched the U.S. Labor Party (USLP), a registered political party, as its electoral arm. In 1976, they nominated LaRouche for President of the United States on the Labor Party ticket, along with numerous candidates for lower office. In 1979, LaRouche changed his political strategy to allow him to run in the Democratic primaries, rather than as a third party candidate. This resulted in the USLP being replaced by the National Democratic Policy Committee (NDPC) a political action committee unassociated with the Democratic National Committee.LaRouche is the NCLC’s founder and the inspiration for its political views. (For more information on these views see the article “Political Views of Lyndon LaRouche,” as well as the main article titled “Lyndon LaRouche. ” An overview of LaRouche’s organizations is in “LaRouche movement. “) The highest group within the NCLC is the “National Executive Committee” (NEC), described as the “inner leadership circle” or “an elite circle of insiders” that “oversees policy. ” The next most senior group is the “National Committee” (NC), which is reportedly “one step beneath the NEC. ”