The art of lobbying has long been part of the United States’ eco-political process. Most grassroots organizations that focus outside of ‘big’ business view lobbying as a coveted vice, while established interests groups consider lobbying as an absolute necessity. The schism has to do with both the knowledge of how lobbying fits into the political process, as well as the ability to draw financial support for effective lobbying. Both factors are dependent on strategic relationship building.
The global business community would readily agree that certain industries demand stronger lobbying interests, and continue to magnetize both relationship and financial capital. The layman tends to believe that lobbying fully supports general private sector interests; however, it is in everyone’s interest to dig a bit deeper and quantify the flow, so as to gain a proper understanding of how powerful lobbying interests can be.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a comprehensive Washington D.C. based resource for lobbying data, has timely compilations on $$$ influence, up to 2014. In general, over USD3 billion dollars per annum is spent on lobbying by approximately 12,000 lobbyists, representing both domestic and global interests within the U.S. So far the count for FY2014 is USD2.4 billion. The Center for Responsive Politics further breaks down the amount spent on advocacy by industry. The top 10 industries and total $$$ spent (in millions) are as follows:
Source: Center for Responsive Politics, 2014.
It is interesting to note that while there is movement upwards/downwards within the top 10 over the past 5 years, the actual top 10 industries have not changed. One noted decrease for 2014 not listed in the table above is a 23% decrease in agribusiness lobbying for 2014. The top 5 institutions within the Business Association industry for use of lobbying services in 2014 are as follows:
This is solid information that most grassroots organizations, small business, and the general populace do not know about. Yet, these are the true players in the U.S’s political process. Consumers of lobbying interests are both large corporations and the associations they belong to. This relationship and financial capital flow specifically depicts an astute understanding of how to maintain influence in the eco-political process. Of course, where decision making attention goes, profit tends to flow.
No one should purport that the mechanism of lobbying be curtailed. It is indeed a built-in process for participation. Instead, organizations that do not feel part of the flow need to first have a full understanding of who the players are, from consumer to middleman to decision makers, not only on a Federal and large corporation level, but on the local or municipal level as well. Emulation of the lobbying mechanism will assist. For the least, find out more about the local commissioners, which chamber of commerce works closest with the commissioners, and which consulting firm represents the chamber’s interests. That is a basic start in the right direction to begin the art of lobbying.