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Lobbying is $300 billion dollar industry and has a massive influence on U.S. politics. However, many people are unaware of what lobbying actually is or what lobbyists do. So, what is lobbying and why is it an important and necessary aspect of American politics?

Definition of Lobbying

In general, lobbying is the act of trying to influence the decisions of a government. In its original meaning, it was the push to get votes from legislators on an issue or agenda item and occurred in the lobby outside legislative chambers, hence the name. More specifically, however, the definition of lobbying can differ slightly from state to state given the state’s lobbying laws and regulations.

Take Illinois and Kentucky for clarification. According to the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislators), Illinois qualifies lobbying as “any communication with an official of the executive or legislative branch of State government for the ultimate purpose of influencing any executive, legislative, or administrative action.” Whereas Kentucky defines it a bit further as the “means to promote, advocate, or oppose the passage, modification, defeat, or executive approval or veto of any legislation by direct communication with any member of the General Assembly, the Governor, the secretary of any cabinet, or any member of the staff of any of the officials listed in this paragraph.”

If you’re interested in lobbying, make sure to understand the specific definitions, laws, and regulations for your state. In doing so, you’re better positioned to be more knowledgeable on local and state politics, as well as gaining a general knowledge of lobbying on the national level.

Who Are Lobbyists?

Lobbyists can be individuals or a whole company, who seek to earn a living by influencing government action on behalf of other individuals, companies, or organizations. Lobbyists have excellent oral and written communication skills. In short, they are sales people of ideas and actions. Lobbyists have had huge success enacting important and beneficial laws and programs for American people. For example, the lobbying efforts of 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism passed JASTA (Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) in 2016. The act, according to “ensures that the rights of American citizens are prioritized above Saudi interests, allowing victims to hold foreign governments accountable in U.S. courts for furthering terrorism against Americans.” Other lobbying efforts seek reform in healthcare, military rights, and drug epidemics.

In terms of who exactly lobbyists are, and how they got involved in the profession, can also vary greatly. Lobbyists are required to register with state and federal governments, but do not need formal certifications or specific degrees. Most lobbyists will have gone to college and earned a diploma, but the degrees studies can range. Many lobbyists will have degrees in journalism, political science, law, economics, or communications/public relations.

Lobbying can be a complicated topic, but with a bit of background and basic information can be easy to understand and recognize. The work lobbyists perform can sometimes be a bit polarizing, like many aspects of government, but ultimately they seek changes that are beneficial to millions of American citizens.