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Advocacy Coordinator, Governmental Relations

North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA)


Director of Government Affairs

North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ)


Vice President, Government Relations (State)

North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA)


Office Manager - Southeast

American Petroleum Institute (API)


Director, Government Relations

NC Healthcare Association (NCHA)

What is Lobbying?

Although lobbying is an ancient art - as old as government itself - it is still frequently viewed with suspicion. It is, in fact, a legitimate activity protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law....abridging the freedom of speech....or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The term "lobbyist" came into usage early in the 19th century, although stories of its origin vary. One account describes "lobby-agents" as the petitioners in the lobby of the New York State Capitol waiting to address legislators. Another version of the story describes the lobby of the Willard Hotel as the meeting site for both legislators and favor-seekers during the early 1800s. Either way, by 1835 the term had been shortened to "lobbyist" and was in wide usage in the U.S. Capitol, though frequently pejoratively.

The caricature is as familiar as the name: portly, cigar-smoking men who wine and dine lawmakers while slipping money into their pockets.

Because the lobbying profession is so little understood, it is often viewed as a sinister function, yet every "mom and apple pie" interest in the United States uses lobbyists - a fact little known by the general public.

Simply put, lobbying is advocacy of a point of view, either by groups or individuals. A special interest is nothing more than an identified group expressing a point of view - be it colleges and universities, churches, charities, public interest or environmental groups, senior citizens organizations, even state, local or foreign governments. While most people think of lobbyists only as paid professionals, there are also many independent, volunteer lobbyists - all of whom are protected by the same First Amendment.

Lobbying involves much more than persuading legislators. Its principal elements include researching and analyzing legislation or regulatory proposals; monitoring and reporting on developments; attending congressional or regulatory hearings; working with coalitions interested in the same issues; and then educating not only government officials but also employees and corporate officers as to the implications of various changes. What most lay people regard as lobbying - the actual communication with government officials - represents the smallest portion of a lobbyist's time; a far greater proportion is devoted to the other aspects of preparation, information and communication.

Lobbying is a legitimate and necessary part of our democratic political process. Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and information must be provided in order to produce informed decisions. Public officials cannot make fair and informed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties. All sides of an issue must be explored in order to produce equitable government policies.

Adapted from The American League of Lobbyists website.

Download PDF Here: What is Lobbying

Lobbying, Legislators and Public Servants

Career Information

Lobbyists must be able to understand their clients' interests as well as the laws and policies they hope to influence

Because there is no prerequisite degree or training to become a lobbyist, many people believe that anyone can be a lobbyist. Technically, that is correct. There is no "entrance exam" one must pass before beginning to work in government relations. But, in some
ways, that creates more of a barrier; because an individual cannot produce credentials on his or her qualifications, potential employers or clients must rely on the applicant's performance record. If a lobbyist has no record of lobbying experience, there is little to commend him or her for the work.

Most lobbyists are college graduates, and many have advanced degrees. Of these advanced degrees, the most prevalent is legal training, with other common backgrounds being communications, teaching, public relations and journalism. Lobbyists must be able to
understand their clients' interests as well as the laws and policies they hope to influence. They must be able to communicate effectively with their audience, both orally and in writing. It is also necessary for them to understand the legislative and political process.

Possibly the best training for lobbying is experience in a legislative or congressional office. Even the most menial position in the NC General Assembly or on Capitol Hill helps provide an understanding of the process unlike anything in a classroom, and competence quickly leads to increased responsibility. Professional staffers - either in personal or committee offices - develop not only an understanding of legislative and congressional issues but also a valuable network of congressional contacts.

Important Note: Unfortunately, we do not have additional information available for people trying to get into the lobbying profession. The
Association is a membership organization dedicated to helping lobbyists perform their jobs better, rather than an employment service of any kind. The best suggestion we can make is for individuals to use the contacts they have through previous work or studies, seeking
informational interviews and networking as much as possible. As indicated in the paragraph above, political or government contacts are
particularly helpful in entering the field.

Adapted from The American League of Lobbyists website.

Download PDF Here: Career Information

How to Retain a Lobbyist

Identifying an experienced, reputable lobbyist suited to an organization's needs is imprecise at best.

In the modern political world, it is not unusual for business and organizations to need representation before the North Carolina
Legislature and government agencies. Many large entities employ lobbyists on a full-time basis, but even they sometimes need additional help in the form of contract lobbyists. Identifying an experienced, reputable lobbyist suited to an organization's needs is imprecise at best.

A veteran lobbyist should have a political network including both N.C. Legislature and Congressional contacts. He or she should have a stellar reputation among both peers and lobbying contacts. And he should have experience with the congressional committees or government agencies with jurisdiction over the issue areas to be lobbied. There are pros and cons to consider in deciding which background a lobbyist should have: law degree, public relations credentials, state and local, congressional or administrative experience. Retaining a lobbyist is a very individual decision with few concrete guidelines. But it should be recognized that no single professional has the skill to resolve every lobbying problem. It is also important to be aware that no lobbyist enjoys a 100% success rate; there are always excellent lobbyists on the losing end of every congressional skirmish.

Adapted from The American League of Lobbyists website.

Click Here to Download PDF: How to Retain a Lobyist