Lobbying 101.5: “Who & Where to Lobby”

Who & Where to Lobby

As a continuation of Lobbying 101 we now explore “who & where to lobby”. There is no restriction on how many members of Congress or your state legislature or a city council you may lobby. You will find, however, that your own state congressional delegation or your state senator or representative—those who are there to represent your interests—will be the most responsive.

Take Congress as the example: support or opposition can have the greatest influence at the committee level. Members of Congress who are not members of the committee handling your legislation have far less influence on how it is shaped. If your congressional member sits on a committee that is considering your issue, your lobbying will be crucial.

If your state is not represented on the committee, ask your congressman to speak with the chairman or members of the committee and endorse your position.

Remember, a bill must be passed by both the House and the Senate. If your representative is not sympathetic to an issue, lobby your senator and vice versa

Where to Lobby

Washington, D.C., Office: Your first communication to the office of a member of Congress is likely to be directed to the legislative assistant who handles your issue. The receptionist may not immediately know who that is, unless your member has consistently been involved with your immediately relevant issue.

  • Legislative assistants are generally scrambling to assemble briefings on short deadlines and not inclined to engage in extensive discussions or policy debates with constituents.
  • They want concise, well-organized presentations, including material on how this issue plays out in their member’s district.
  • They do not want long position papers that will take huge amounts of time to read and then summarize.
  • They are busy and focused on short-term demands, so if your issue is way off in the future, they will be less interested in speaking with you.
  • Keep your communications short and to the point, letting them extend the discussion if they become interested.
  • District Office: Senators may have six or so offices around their state. A congressman in a small district would only have one, in a larger district, two or three.

Staff members who work in the district office are not directly involved in the legislative process, however, they are a valuable lobbying resource. The district office is readily accessible and the staff is familiar with local issues. Usually the district director or another senior advisor is the member’s eyes and ears in the district and provides important feedback on the priority of local issues. The member’s schedule in his home district is usually arranged by these offices as well. Use District folks often.

Author Martin Milita, a Senior Director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Bars and has lobbied state and federally and in Canada.

Duane Morris Government Strategies is a bipartisan government relations firm. Duane Morris Government Strategies represent clients before the federal government and in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals offer a full complement of government-affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, policy analysis, assistance with government procurement and funding programs, and crisis management.

Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals have held high-level political positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and have run and played active roles in federal, state, and local political campaigns. They have also worked for members of Congress, congressional and state committees, and presidential and gubernatorial transition teams. Also at Duane Morris Government Strategies disposal are hundreds of seasoned attorneys from the Duane Morris law firm who have handled complex legal issues in the public and private sectors across a multitude of industries.

 

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Lobbying 101.4: Why Lobby

Why Lobby?

All elected officials, from the president of the United States to city council members, hold their positions because they won a majority of the votes cast in an election. Your role in the political process does not end at the voting booth. Once you have put these officials in a position of power, it is important to ensure that they are informed and can make decisions that will benefit your town, city, and the Nation writ large. Chances are you have expertise that may be a valuable resource for your elected officials.

Congress passes hundreds of bills during each legislative session. To do this, the members must depend on their small staffs, both in the district and in Washington, to research issues, recommend positions, and draft legislation. Your expertise—offered through lobbying—is critical to the legislative process.

Federal legislation, such as the yearly appropriation of funds and changes in tax policy, can directly affect matters important to you and your community.

When you lobby with facts, figures, and strong arguments, your representative and senators will be able to assess the legislation and make an informed decision about how to vote. Always remember, those on the other side of the issue are lobbying too!

Every voter should lobby because it produces more responsive legislators and a more responsive government.

Author Martin Milita, is a Senior Director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, where he offers clients a singular blend of business savvy, political acumen, and policy know how.

Duane Morris Government Strategies is a bipartisan government relations firm. Duane Morris Government Strategies represent clients before the federal government and in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.  Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals offer a full complement of government-affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, policy analysis, assistance with government procurement and funding programs, and crisis management.

Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals have held high-level political positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and have run and played active roles in federal, state and local political campaigns. They have also worked for members of Congress, congressional and state committees, and presidential and gubernatorial transition teams. Also at Duane Morris Government Strategies disposal are hundreds of seasoned attorneys from the Duane Morris law firm who have handled complex legal issues in the public and private sectors across a multitude of industries

Lobbying 101 Continued: Strong Voices

We have already seen that for many folks, lobbying conjures up dark  images of back rooms, back slaps and spoils. But we have also seen that those images are far from the truth. Casting your ballot in the voting booth may be the most fundamental of democratic acts, but talking to your elected and appointed officials—lobbying–is the indispensable step.

We used an example of historic preservationists- but every other group of citizens- preservationists or not-, have the prerogative and the responsibility to let elected and appointed officials, federal, state and local know their actions have consequences, positive and negative.

Lobbying  (or Lobbying 101) is designed to acquaint you with the lobbying techniques, and resources available to aid in advocacy.  Its information and recommendations can be applied to federal, state and local advocacy for executive, legislative, grassroots, procurement and finance.

Remember:

Lobbying is nothing more than simply being a strong voice for things that are important to you in your community.

The most fundamental part of lobbying is establishing positive long-term, working relationships with your elected and appointed representatives, laying the groundwork for taking specific action when the need or the opportunity arises.

Martin Milita, is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He has successfully lobbied for statutes, agency rules, and agency permits in the United States, both state and federal governments, in Canada and within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Europe and North America.

Lobbying 101.3 Power Mapping: A step by step approach.

Introduction.

Whether you have decided to be involved in Legislative and Executive Branch Advocacy, Policy Analysis, Government Procurement, Government Loan and Grant Programs, Crisis Management or agency rule making, Power Mapping is an important strategy.

(Agencies get their authority to issue regulations from laws (statutes) enacted by the Federal or state legislatures.  Members of interested groups may be invited to meetings where they attempt to reach a consensus on the terms of the proposed rule. If the participants reach agreement, the agency may endorse their ideas and use them as the basis for the proposed rule).

Power Mapping: A step by step approach.

Step 1. Determine your target

A power map is a visual tool and should be drawn. The map starts with a person or institution you want to influence – this is your target. Power maps are worked out for the purpose of solving an advocacy or lobbying problem. The person or institution that can solve this problem is usually the target or center for the map. Often the targets are elected or appointed decision makers or committees.

Example: a casino is trying to build in the historic preservation area of your community. The city zoning commission is considering a special rewrite of the town’s ordinances to accommodate new construction. Your group opposes efforts to rewrite local laws to accommodate new construction in the historic area. The zoning commission has the final say over any changes to the ordinance. Two members are opposed, two members are in favor. One member of the commission is undecided. Your group has decided to influence the undecided commissioner to ensure that she votes against the zoning re-write. The group is developing a power map to determine how to best influence this commissioner.

Step 2. Map Influence of your Target(s)

Think of all the associations who have a relationship with this target. Think broadly. These can include work, political, family, religious, community service and neighborhood ties. Anyone who can exert influence on this individual should be mapped.

  • Be creative – even if you decide you do not want to target, for example, the commissioners’ family, putting them up on the map might give you ideas on other avenues of influence.
  • Be strategic – Elected officials are easy to map. Look at all the major donors and constituency groups she has interacted with in the past, present and future.
  • Be Thorough – Spend some time thinking about the target from every different angle. Once you are satisfied, start thinking about what these people and institutions are connected to. A good power map will have major influences mapped out, outlining multiple degrees of separation.

Step 3: Determine Relational Power Lines

Take a step back and review the network you’ve created. Some of these people and institutions not only connect to the target, but also to one another. You might find that the target is a member of the local historical society but so is their spouse, a religious leader that they respect or even a child. The historical society connects many of the influences in the target’s life. These connectors are called “nodes of power” within a given network. These nodes don’t always connect directly to the target. If the Commissioner was not a member of the historical society, but their spouse, clergy or the mayor were all members, the historical society could still be a major influence on her. Power mapping sometimes reveals surprises. Also some of these networks may connect directly to you or your group.

Step 4: Target Priority Relationships

Now analyze some of the connections and make some decisions. One way to do this is to circle the few people that have the most relational power lines drawn to them (the historical society or mayor etc.). Consider attempting to involve these people through your group’s current relationships. If no one in the group has any influence over these nodes of power, it may be useful to do a power map around that institution or person to help you figure out how you can influence them. Another consideration might be a person or institution in the map that doesn’t necessarily have many different relational lines running to him/her/it, but nonetheless has a few critical ones and seems very influential. If you can identify a priority person/institution for which there isn’t a clear relationship, then you might want to encourage the group to find out more about this person/institution. As you get used to power mapping you can draw more complex maps. Many problems will have multiple decision makers. For example you may start to draw the target’s most influential relationships closest in proximity to the name in the physical map. You might use different colors to indicate whether the person or institution is friendly to your position, unfriendly, or unknown.

Conclusion.

The power map itself is a first step in figuring out an advocacy organization’s strategies. After the map is completed, it is used to decide how and where to take action. It’s flexible in that it can provide direction for Legislative and Executive Branch Advocacy, Policy Analysis, Government Procurement, Government Loan and Grant Programs, Crisis Management or agency rule making.

Duane Morris Government Strategies is a bipartisan government relations firm. Duane Morris Government Strategies represent clients before the federal government and in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York,  New Jersey and Ohio.  Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals offer a full complement of government-affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, policy analysis, assistance with government procurement and funding programs, and crisis management.

Duane Morris Government Strategies professionals have held high-level political positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and have run and played active roles in federal, state, and local political campaigns. They have also worked for members of Congress, congressional and state committees, and presidential and gubernatorial transition teams. Also at Duane Morris Government Strategies disposal are hundreds of seasoned attorneys from the Duane Morris law firm who have handled complex legal issues in the public and private sectors across a multitude of industries.

Author Martin Milita, a Senior Director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, is equally comfortable on Wall Street, in Trenton NJ or in Washington, where he offers clients a singular blend of business savvy, political acumen, and policy know how.

Lobbying 101.2

Not just big business or large not for profits but often, individuals who are active in the community through service and activism come to care deeply about an issue and want to influence that issue through the political process. Some individuals’ entry into civic engagement may even be wanting to influence policy makers and policies directly, sparked by a passion on an issue. Regardless of the path, it’s helpful to identify one specific goal or issue for focus. While the issues that people often want to influence are complex (e.g., education, poverty, the environment etc.), in practice having a specific goal is an important part of your lobbying strategy.  Focus helps drive success.

Previously in Lobbying 101 I wrote about the lobbying industry itself, or the lobbying activities that tend to end up in the news. The main goal today is to offer practical, usable advice for people who need a lobbyist – or think they might want to lobby for themselves on an issue important to them.

After focus, the next crucial step in lobbying is identifying appropriate targets whom you will then lobby. Note:

  1. The definition of lobby (as a verb) is: to try to influence public officials for or against a specific cause. Lobbying is a form of public policy advocacy and educating government. It is communicating with legislators and the executive branch to encourage them to take action on specific legislation. Lobbying is a part of the democratic process.
  2. Note that the definition identifies “public officials” not elected officials. Officials who work for the government through appointed or other means can also be important in your strategy (especially those that have the ears of elected officials). For example, people who work for the local neighborhood, city, state, and federal agencies and/or departments that affect particular policies may be effective in your strategy (especially as peers to the legislator to make the case).
  3. So, how do you identify key stakeholders to influence that will ultimately lead to policy or legislative change?
  4. Here, we will use a strategy called power mapping which is: a conceptual strategy of determining whom you need to influence, exactly who can influence your target, and whom you can actually influence to start the dominoes in motion.

Martin Milita is a senior director  with Duane Morris Government Strategies, a consultancy and lobbying firm that represents clients seeking the support of state- and federal-level government agencies. Commanding a career that spans more than three decades, Martin Milita possesses extensive experience serving private and public sector clients in legislative affairs and activities. Martin Milita holds a Bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics from King’s College and a Juris Doctor from the James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University.

Lobbying 101

This is more about how to work with lobbyists than it is about the lobbying industry itself, or the lobbying activities that tend to end up in the news.  The main goal is to offer practical, usable advice for people who need a lobbyist – or think they might.

Much has been said and written about lobbyists (not much of it good, unfortunately). Lobbying was a hot button topic during much of the last Presidential campaign, and President Obama  promised to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests in his administration, and has received some criticism for selecting lobbyists for a few of the positions in his cabinet.

But despite all the talk about lobbyists, I haven’t found much in the way of practical, unbiased information about them. I found that the information in the media is shallow at best (this is true of many subjects, but seems especially so with lobbying), and most people don’t know enough about lobbyists to make informed decisions.

Many lobbyists are people who used to work in the government, either as elected officials, political appointees, staff for elected officials, or career civil servants. Their experience in their previous position(s) gives them a great deal of knowledge of how the government works, and a long list of personal contacts – especially in the area of government they used to work in.  Former elected officials and political appointees also often carry a reputation that helps them open a lot of doors.

There are more than 50 versions of lobbying laws in states and territories. Yet, all states share a basic definition of lobbying as an attempt to influence government action. Written and oral communications are both recognized as lobbying. Three states (Delaware, Kansas, and Texas) include in their definitions of lobbying providing entertainment, gifts, recreational events, food and beverages to legislators. The remaining states regulate the disclosure of and the amounts spent on such activities.

The definition of who is a lobbyist usually revolves around compensation. Most states define a lobbyist as someone who receives any amount of compensation or reimbursement to lobby. Among the exceptions are Hawaii, Minnesota and New York. These states stipulate threshold amounts of money and time spent on lobbying, and, if these thresholds are reached, an individual becomes a lobbyist.

Beyond their background, many lobbyists also share social and family lives with people that still work in the government. They often live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same churches, send their kids to the same schools, take classes at the same gyms, and eat at the same restaurants.  So lobbyists often know a lot of people in government in social circles as well.  Lobbyists are often good friends with a lot of the people they lobby, and those personal relationships are things that people who come from outside the beltway simply can’t duplicate.

Although lobbyists can open doors for you, a good lobbyist will do a lot more than that. Lobbyists can offer a whole range of services, including:

  • Set Goals ◦You really should already know what your goals are before you talk to any lobbyists. But lobbyists can help translate your goals (which may be business-oriented or end-results-oriented) into goals that make sense in the context of the government.

 

  • Strategy, Timing, & Focus ◦Help you develop a strategy and focus your efforts where they’ll be most successful at the proper time.

 

  • Education ◦Educate you on government processes, regulations, & potential traps (like numerous conflict-of-interest laws).

 

  • Representation ◦Represent you and your interests to the government, so you don’t have to be there in person doing it yourself most of the time.

 

  • Relationships ◦Help you develop relationships with people in government that can help you achieve your goals.

 

  • Champions ◦Find and support “champions” within the government who are willing to push for your objectives from within.

 

  • Marketing ◦Advertise you and/or your project in appropriate places and appropriate ways. For example, if you’re trying to sell an IT solution to the DoD, a lobbying firm with marketing focus might get articles published about your technology in magazines that DoD project managers read.

 

  • Prospecting ◦Identify potential customers within the many, many agencies, organizations, and offices in the government.

 

  • Legislation ◦Support your legal and political interests in new laws considered and enacted by Congress or State Legislatures.

◦Note that lobbyists do alot of work writing actual legislation. They often propose text for new laws and give it to elected officials staffers (who are more than happy to have someone else do the work for them).  So a good lobbyist can help get laws written with specific language that meets your objectives.

 

  • Appropriations ◦Seek government or private foundation funding for specific projects or interests.

 

  • Delivery ◦Navigate the processes, politics, and regulations to successfully deliver a project after you’ve succeeded in getting it.

In my experience, the 3 most important of these are (in order):

1.Strategy, Timing and Focus

2.Representation

3.Relationships

 

Corporate Inversions: Much Ado About Nothing?

Last Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew stated that the Obama administration is close to reaching a final decision on what action can be taken to discourage U.S. companies from moving their legal address abroad to avoid domestic tax rates, a process known as “corporate inversions”. Lew said that the administration’s decision would come “in the very near future.” “Any action we take will have a strong legal and policy basis but will not be a substitute for meaningful legislation — it can only address part of the economics,” said Lew. “Only a change in the law can shut the door, and only tax reform can solve the problems in our tax code that leads to inversions.”

Tax inversions are to some unpatriotic and unethical; they speak to the need for more loophole-thwarting regulations and tax reform. To others, the real threat to the U.S. corporate tax base is our corporate tax code itself, with the third-highest overall rate in the world and a worldwide system that requires American companies to pay a toll charge to bring their profits back home. Thus, the solution to the inversion “problem” is to dramatically cut the corporate rate and to move to a territorial tax system, not add even more unnecessary rules to an already complicated tax code.

However, only targeted legislation that reduces the incentives and ability of firms to invert can truly protect the corporate tax base. Possible responses include allowing U.S. corporations to invert only if they truly become a foreign firm. This means current shareholders of the U.S. firm would have to own less than 50 percent of the new merged foreign firm, compared with the currently legislated 80 percent threshold. Additional measures that would likely be required to prevent inversions from further eroding the corporate tax base include preventing the practice known as “earnings stripping” and preventing corporations from using tax-deferred offshore cash in ways that benefit U.S. shareholders without paying U.S. taxes.

Despite the often vitriolic debate, when it comes down to the hard numbers, corporate inversions don’t appear to currently create a significant drain on U.S. tax revenue. The Joint Committee on Taxation projects that the U.S. would lose about $19.5 billion in tax revenue from 2015 to 2024 because of corporate inversions. Although that’s a considerable amount, that’s only 0.4% of the $4.5 trillion U.S. budget over the same time period, as the Tax Foundation notes. So is this “much ado about nothing”-at least not much?

Martin Milita is currently a Senior Director with Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC, a full-service government affairs firm in DC, PA., NJ and Ohio. Duane Morris Government Strategies, LLC ., deals regularly with a myriad of complicated federal and state tax law matters, such as federal unrelated business income and compensation issues in the exempt organization realm, and state law sales and property tax exemption questions, which have gained national attention during the past few years.  The Duane Morris Government Strategies team is well-equipped to lead  clients through the maze of tax regulations and find solutions that add value, whether as part of routine tax planning or in connection with a change in public policy.