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Six Answers to Common Questions about Lobbyists
12/13/2016 Lobbyists Raymond Z
keywords: Congress Economy Legislation

We hear them talked about as if they are some mysterious force. They are lobbyists and they are a powerful element in how laws are created, amended, and passed or vetoed. Lobbyists would describe their jobs as “educating” politicians on specific issues of importance. The more skeptical among us would say they are paid agents of special interests. But who are these lobbyist? Who pays them and how much? How does one become a lobbyist? Here are six answers to some common questions about this non-elected political force.

1.) Who Pays Lobbyists?

Lobbyists generally fall into four broad categories.

  1. Those who work for a specific company. Some large and powerful companies hire their own lobbyists to represent the interest of their company.

  2. Those who work for a particular trade or interest group. This can range from categories like the the oil industry, pharmaceuticals, automotive or groups like trade unions.

  3. Some Lobbyists are employed by non-profit groups. Keep in mind “non-profit” is different than charitable. Many medical and research organizations and large educational institutions are considered non-profit.

  4. Contract Lobbyists. These are lobbyist who know the system and will work for any company or interest on a contract basis, much like an electrician or plumber will work on a housing project and move on.

2.) How Much is Spent on Lobbying Efforts?

According to a 2015 article in The Atlantic, corporations now pay over $2.5 BILLION per year on lobbying. That's more than the approximately $2 billion spent to fund Congress entirely. Since the year 2000, money spent on lobbying Congress has exceeded the total expenses of the House and Senate combined. That gap continues to grow.

3.) How Many Lobbyists are There?

The number of Federally registered lobbyists in the United States in 2015 was about 11,500. That is down from the record high of the almost 15,000 lobbyists of 2007.

4.) How Much are Lobbyists Paid?

Lobbying can be lucrative. While salaries vary widely dependent on experience, education and record of success, they range from roughly $85,000 to $150,000 annually. The average is about $104,000 per year.

5.) Who are These Lobbyists?

While we may believe most lobbyists are former members of congress that's not quite true. Of the total estimated 11,000 lobbyists, about 500 are estimated to be former members of congress. The problem isn't that such a huge percentage of total lobbyists are former congress people. The problem is that such a large percentage of former congressmen are entering lobbying. A 2015 article in the Washington Post is a good read about congressmen becoming lobbyists.

Who Spends the Most Money on Lobbyists? 

If you believe in following the money, this is an interesting list. According to the Centre for Responsible Politics the the top five organizations that spend money on lobbying include:

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • The Insurance Industry

  • Electric Utilities

  • Business Associations

  • Internet and Technology-based Companies

Sometimes the questions we have about the role of lobbying this country is in the answers to some pretty basic questions.

Source: Raymond Z

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