Over the years the public image of lobbyists has shifted from neutral to negative. Lobbying probably makes you think of a rigged political system where under-the-table deals are made. But is that really fair? The truth about lobbyists is a little more complicated.
Generally, the role of the lobbyist is to build relationships with government officials—especially lawmakers—to pursuade them to consider action on legislative initiatives ranging all sorts of interests. There are lobbyists for business entities, but also for public policies in general.
When promoting their agendas, it's common to provide monetary support to the campaign fund of person they are trying to sway. That's the part that tends to raise eyebrows. But, as suspect as that sounds, lobbyists are a necessary evil.
Take the Americans for Disabilities Act for example: Without the work of lobbyists, that legislation might never have been passed. So, for every lobbyist advocating for a deep-pocketed corporation, there is another fighting for what's important to the American people. Lobbying can be practiced in several different ways including: representing a corporation or firm, an individual or group, or a non-profit group.
Here's a breakdown of the major types of lobbying:
Corporations or Firms
These types of lobbyists are commonly those with some form of pre-existing political influence, whether it be a former or current government official. They are paid—in money or favors—to represent a client and must register this relationship, divulge the concept they are lobbying for, and specify how long this relationship lasts. If he or she is lobbying for more than one client at a time, they are required to register each one separately.
Individuals and Groups
These tend to be people who are employed by the concept or person they are representing. They have a more long-term relationship with the client and spend a large amount of time working for their cause. He or she can lobby for more than one employer at a time, but they must also register their positions.
Non-profit lobbyists tend to work in a larger group for a non-profit organization. One person is required to register all those working in the group once, but they don't need to individually register. They also spend a large amount of time working for their cause, and it is possible for an individual to work for more than one organization at a time.
If you're interested in lobbying, get involved by contacting an office or organization you'd like to lobby for. They're always looking for dedicated individuals to advocate on their behalf. Don't let your voice get lost in the bustle of politics; talk to your representatives, lobby for a cause you are passionate about, and get informed on the issues. You have more of an influence than you can imagine.
The above video is part of We the Voters, a groundbreaking social impact campaign designed to inspire and activate millions of young Americans through 20 viral films hosted by actors and influencers. The project incorporates real characters, dynamic story lines and celebrity influencers to demystify how the government and elections work and motivate Americans to seize their power by voting in the 2016 elections. For more information, and to see the rest of the films, visit We the Voters.com.