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Lobbying 101

In my most recent column, I discussed my 16 Rules for Effective Lobbying.
This week, I asked senior legislative staff to each submit their single most
important piece of advice for lobbyists. Future columns similarly will
reflect advice from legislators and lobbyists. The following collective
wisdom is a great supplement to the 16 rules:

  • If you lobby in my program area, don’t come see me for the first time when
    you want something. And when you come, please bring facts and information,
    not anecdotes. –Senate senior staffer
  • Be timely. There’s nothing worse than a lobbyist who doesn’t know when to
    talk to staff or a member. Are you in the right house, the right committee?
    Did you send us a fax when the bill is still sitting in the other house?
    –chief of staff to Senator

  • Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Playing hide
    the ball just pisses me off. I’ll figure it out eventually. Remember,
    there’s always next time. –Senate committee consultant
  • Make your points early. People who think “last minute plays” are more
    effective frequently don’t know what they are talking about. Don’t waste a
    legislative staff member’s time. Get information to them quickly and
    efficiently. Don’t ask for meetings that aren’t absolutely necessary.
    Impressing a client by getting face time with a staff member doesn’t
    necessarily help. –Assembly senior staffer
  • Don’t procrastinate. This is especially true if you’re sponsoring a bill.
    All committees have deadlines to complete their analyses, which are commonly
    several days before the hearing. If you want your arguments to be included
    in the analysis, provide the consultant with your letter and supporting
    information at least a week before the hearing, and preferably longer. You
    should avoid winding up on the list of “late support and opposition.”
    There’s no reason not to contact the consultant even before the bill is
    officially referred if it’s obviously coming to the committee but has a
    procedural hurdle or two in its path. –Assembly committee consultant
  • Don’t try to lowball or lie about the contents of your bill. When you are
    caught, your bill will die about as fast as your reputation. Get your
    materials to us early, at least two weeks prior to the hearing date, and
    then follow up to see if anything else if needed. If your bill has problems,
    this process improves the chances of the bill being fixed (amended). If the
    materials are late and, as a consequence, late problems are identified, that
    could cause the hearing of the measure to be delayed until the problems are
    worked out. Count your votes before the hearing. If you don’t have the
    number you need, find out why and if possible, resolve the issue before the
    hearing. –Senate committee consultant
  • Work with an author on any concerns about their bill before going to other
    parties. Most authors will try to work through an issue. You may win the war
    going around the author on that particular bill but you will lose the
    ability to work with their office in the future. –chief of staff to Senator
  • Return calls promptly.
    –Assembly committee consultant
  • 1. Know what you’re talking about when you propose a change in public
    policy. No serious legislative staff is interested in your good looks or
    Kings’ tickets. 2. Throw away the Blackberry. –Senate committee consultant
  • There are two fundamental guidelines to successful lobbying: relationships
    and honesty. A key tool to good lobbying is building strong relationships
    with consultants. Beyond staff, it is necessary to maintain communication
    with consultants, as they play a pivotal role in the delivery and
    malleability of legislation. Lastly, and most importantly, a lobbyist should
    know that a good reputation is vital to achieving success. To do so, it is
    necessary for a lobbyist to be forthright and honest about the pros and cons
    of relevant legislation. When a lobbyist is able to be clear-cut with staff,
    consultants, and Legislators, this straightforwardness will provide a solid
    platform upon which open discussion, compromise, and better public policy
    can occur. –chief of staff to Assembly member
  • Life is short and so are the terms–stick to the facts, pros and cons, and
    make it relevant to the member’s constituency. Remember that most of you
    will be speaking with a legislative assistant who has been here less than
    three years and while you can pull the wool over their eyes, the committee
    consultants will be far less persuaded by your charms and the analysis will
    reflect it. Nothing more troubling than a member who gets different stories
    from the committee analysis and their personal legislative staff. –Assembly
    committee consultant
  • Don’t assume the senator(s) we work for are OK with your bill or position.
    To avoid misunderstandings, touch base with our consultants and key players
    before your measure moves forward. Surprises are as uncomfortable for us as
    they are for you and your clients, especially when problems can be fixed
    with a simple amendment. Also, if you’ve got some grand master strategy,
    fill us in on it. We usually find out eventually anyway. The sin of
    omission: When pitching a bill, be honest about the upsides and downsides of
    the proposal, doing so builds trust and relationships. –chief of staff to
    senator.

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