Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Three Simple Steps to Passing a Law - How to Lobby an Issue

I wrote this up for a post on an adoption group site to encourage other States to pass a version of a fantastic Missouri law that helps get orphans into homes.  The strategy has universal applications.

Do you want to be an adoption hero in your state? A Special Needs Adoption Tax Credit allows Missouri adoptive families a $10,000 tax CREDIT on top of the $10,000 federal tax credit.

Here is the link:

Most State Legislatures begin the lawmaking Session in January so now is the time to get started.  One person truly can make this happen and you may not even require a political lobbyist.

Step 1 - Get a bill
The first, and easiest step mechanically is to find a friendly politician, a lawmaker and ask him or her to file the bill.  They all have research staff who could copy another State law or just start from scratch.  The only exception to this that I am aware of is in the "Live Free or Die State" - New Hampshire.  Folks there are so freedom-loving and parsimonious that they deny their lawmakers really any staff at all.  As the State is so tiny, a creative Free Stater could probably borrow a lawmaker from a neighboring State to accomplish the task.  However you do it, there is no cost to this and you get yourself a bill, as in a drafted piece of legislation.

Step 2 - Build legislative support

At some point you would need to build broader legislative support which tends to follow public and/or pressure group advocacy.  Lawmakers respond to one thing only; power.  This is due to the simple fact that power is what gets them re-elected.  Understanding the three components of political power is important.  I will cover those and additional lobbying techniques and tips in future posts.  

Now to be sure, every lawmaker will have at least a few pet projects that is based on good will alone.  I once passed an historic vehicle license plate law because my late father suggested it.  If you want your law passed, float it out there and see who opposes it.  Then you start making determinations about overcoming or working around that opposition.  Once you have determined where your legislative opposition lies you can begin to fine tune your public relations strategy.

Step 3 - Build public support
The average public relations professional would know a thing or two about public advocacy and more specifically, how to manage public opinion in order to leverage lawmakers.  The key to marketing a cause or a product or service, begins with developing a message. You then must rally diverse coalitions around that message. This is the only way great things get done.  The mechanics of delivering that message are a matter of art more than rocket science, but a dedicated individual or small group can move public opinion mountains like an ant against the rubber tree.  I love to see strong grassroots mobilization in action.

So do not be shy.  We are blessed to live in the most politically accessible nation on Earth.  Missouri citizens, through their lawmakers, will file 2000 bills in a cycle.  Find one to file your bill.  If you have a good idea you might be amazed at what good you can do.  And you may not even need a lobbyist.  If you think you might, every State will maintain a registered lobbyist database online.

As always, for more information or advice, including our contact information, please visit our website at

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Hire a Lobbyist 101

Over fourteen year of legislating I had countless people approach my office for assistance.  Often their problems could be solved with a phone call or two, but sometimes people needed some legislative advocacy to get a law changed. 

Considering the insanity of the Pelosi-Reid Congress it is clear that no business is safe when the politicians are making laws.  Whether your business plan would benefit from a law change or you fear you could be harmed by an impending legislation you may indeed need the help of a registered lobbyist.  What do you do?

Hiring your cousin Nick, picking some guy off a list of lobbyists and determining that having 50 clients means he must be good is not smart either.  So how do you pick a top lobbying firm?  You must plan as you would in choosing a top performer for your business.  You will need to define and measure success, and determine how much to pay for it.

The first step to hiring a lobbyist might begin with investing in lobbyist relationship management so you do not get burned by a dishonest, substandard or conflicted lobbyist.  A small investment up front can save you from catastrophes later.  Like Otto Von Bismark said of the lawmaking process.  It is indeed "like making sausage".  Your job is to be sure your business model doesn't become a casualty of the grinder. 

For more information on hiring a lobbyist contact us at Legacy Group.