You have probably ever heard of the word lobbyist in news items. In most cases, they are always quoted when controversial issues such as an introduction to new drugas, or new legislation are being passed. But who exactly is a lobbyist and what do they do?
Lobbying is a process where an individual or group of people try to influence a decision or policy with a public office or politician. Their role in the legislation process is always to either to support, promote or influence the matter being discussed before it becomes law. There are instances when they will be championing the change of existing law. Lobbyists can be individuals who are passionate about human interest, or advocates who have majored in championing for lobby activities. It can also be a group that share an interest, such as a Non-Governmental Organisation. There are lawyers whose role is to lobby, and they are paid to specifically use their knowledge to convince relevant people to sway decisions. Even though there have been many debates that try to look at lobbyists as people who bribe or pay to have legislatures work with their suggestions, the reality is that a real lobbyist does not offer to pay bribes or use do pressure to make legislatures yield to their demands. They use their knowledge and experience to enact the relevant changes.
The term lobbying came into existence in the early 1800s. It is reported that the first person to use the term was US president Ulysses Grant who gave a story of advocates who would lay an ambush in hotel lobbies, waiting for politicians to come. They would then approach the politicians in the lobby, ask them to sit down for a cup of tea, and then present an issue that they want to be changed.
Examples of Lobbyist Activities
There are many ways in which lobbying can be done. The method used is often determined by the preference of the lobbyist, and the complexity of the case.
- One on one meeting: In this case, the lobbyist(s) meets the legislature and has a discussion on what they think should be done. This meeting is always to sway the legislature to support the cause that the lobbyist is championing.
- Working with Champions: In this case, the lobbyist works with an advocacy group or people who have an interest and asks them to push a certain law.
- Through government agencies: Another way of lobbyists having an influence in legislation is by working with government agencies by presenting to them facts and figures about a specific case and asking them to push for change in legislation.
In all the cases, the lobbyist should have enough information, after doing research, to convince people to look at things their way. They should also know that the lobbying process can take longer, especially when lobbying on a complex issue. One case can be taken up by one lobbyist, or have many lobbyists coming together to push for it.
Who Uses Lobbyists
Anyone can approach lobbyists, but they are most commonly used by companies. For instance, insurance companies, manufacturers, the energy sector, pharmaceuticals, among others. There is no blanket definition on the kind of lobbying that can be done and in most cases, every state always has a written rule on lobbying activities.