In discussing how to be an effective lobbyist, the importance of judgment
and intuition often have been noted. It has been said that judgment and
intuition are “bought through experience, broad exposure to the ideas of
others and the traditional practices of the craft, and reflection.”
Application of the following rules is an excellent way to help ensure that
you maximize your “purchase” of the judgment and intuition you will need to
be an effective lobbyist:
1. BE A SPONGE. When I first went to work as legislative staff in Sacramento
in 1975, I felt like I had been dropped from another planet. I realized that
I had a tremendous amount to learn about the ways of the Capitol and made
the wisest decision of my career: to be a sponge and soak up the requisite
knowledge to succeed. My advice: observe closely why people are succeeding
and why they are failing and apply the lessons you learn.
2. TELL THE TRUTH. It is easier to remember. If all the other good reasons
(moral, ethical and otherwise) don’t convince you, the fact that you won’t
have to remember what you made up should.
3. YOUR WORD IS YOUR BOND. Much of your ability to function in Sacramento
depends on trust; your reputation for living up to your end of a bargain
will be one of the most important determinants of your likelihood for
4. YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IS MANAGING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS. Unrealistic
expectations will result in untenable pressure to do the wrong thing at the
5. UNDERPROMISE AND OVERDELIVER. This can be difficult when it results in
losing prospective clients to lobbyists who make promises of success that
they know they can’t deliver, but it is the right and ethical approach and
in the long run will serve you best.
6. TRUE GENIUS INVOLVES KNOWING WHEN TO STOP. One example is testimony in
committee. Too many times I have seen witnesses lose a bill in committee
because they continued to speak past the point of effectiveness. When I
worked for the Assembly Judiciary Committee, our chairman would sometimes
help witnesses to avoid this error by asking them, “Do you want your bill or
do you want to talk”?
7. DON’T IGNORE MINORITY PARTY MEMBERS. There are so many reasons for
supporting this rule–common courtesy (you may need their votes and not
realize it), you will need them on some future issue, they may raise issues
you may not have thought of, no one likes to be ignored, etc.
8. PERSEVERANCE = PERSISTENCE PLUS PATIENCE. Do not make the common and
costly mistake of equating perseverance with persistence alone . Zen Master
Phil Jackson said it best: “There’s no percentage in trying to push the
river or speed up the harvest. The farmer who’s so eager to help his crops
grow that he slips out at night and tugs on the shoots inevitably ends up
9. NEVER CONFUSE MOTION WITH ACTION. The “do something, anything” approach
can cost you dearly. Sometimes it is better to leave a stone unturned
(especially if you don’t know what is under it).
10. IMPETUOUSNESS (“READY, FIRE, AIM”) IS YOUR ENEMY. And analysis and
strategy are your friends.
11. NEVER SPEAK ON BEHALF OF ANOTHER ENTITY OR PURPORT TO REPRESENT ITS
POSITION WITHOUT SPECIFIC, CLEAR, DEFINITIVE, PRECISE AUTHORIZATION.
Representing someone else erroneously and/or without authorization will get
you into more trouble than virtually any other lobbying sin.
12. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE. There will be unforeseeable twists and turns
on the road to achieving your goal. Don’t let them be a distraction.
Instead, re-assess your strategy and tactics as necessary.
13. DON’T LET THE PERFECT BECOME THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD. There will be times
when you can get most, but not all, of what you are seeking. Don’t let
yourself lose a major victory by stubborn pursuit of the unattainable.
The last three rules are really “life rules,” but are especially important
when applied to lobbying:
14. “R.A.L.F.” (Recognize, Admit, Learn from, Forget About) YOUR MISTAKES.
15. WHEN YOU GET FRUSTRATED: STOP,BREATHE and THINK.
16. DON’T TAKE SETBACKS PERSONALLY
Ray LeBov has 30 years of legislative experience, including 13 years as the
director of governmental affairs for the Judicial Council of California and
17 yeas as committee counsel in the Assembly. On a regular basis, he
presents his course on lobbying, Lobbying 101. The next presentation is
Thursday, August 3, 9 a.m. to noon at the CSAC Center in Downtown
Sacramento. For details, call 443-6788.