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For those who feel passionately about an issue, and want to express those views to their representatives, there truly is no process required to become a lobbyist. All that is required is the ability, either through letters, phone calls or personal visits, to make one's views known. For those who want to lobby professionally, however, there are some other steps that must be completed.
In most cases, those who are getting paid to lobby will be required to register with the government. This information is usually public, meaning that anyone can request this information. Those most likely to request the information are the political parties and the news media. In some locations, a person who registered as a lobbyist must wear a badge identifying themselves as a lobbyist. The rules for becoming a registered lobbyist vary from state to state, and there may be further requirements for those who wish to lobby at the national level.
To find out what is needed in your state, contact your legislative services bureau. The name of this office may be slightly different in different states, but the function will be much the same. It is this agency that is responsible for registering lobbyists and providing any information about ethics and protocol. Even employees who lobby voluntarily for an issue their employers care about may need to register. Often, this depends on how many times in a year, or session, an employee is on the scene promoting an agenda.
There are two common tracks taken to become a lobbyist in a professional capacity. Some are hired after college by corporations and organizations looking to influence legislators to their side of important issues. Others become lobbyists after gaining substantial experience in a specific field. For example, an environmental scientist may become a lobbyist after publishing many reports and working on solutions. Lobbying may be the next logical step to promote those ideas.
Those who plan on a career as a lobbyist immediately upon graduation from college often come from one of two degree tracks, public relations or political science. Both degree programs give the student a good background for dealing with people and points of persuasion, which are important skills for anyone wishing to become a lobbyist. Those looking to hire these students as lobbyists are likely to be look at issues from a philosophical standpoint rather than a technical one. This is because these individuals often have little technical knowledge about any particular subject area.
An expert in a field may become a lobbyist as a natural progression of his or her career. After suitable experience has been gained, the person's organization may request that they lobby for the cause either at the state or national level. Often, such a person will have already gained some contacts, perhaps even with elected officials. This can provide a good avenue by which to meet other elected officials in a position to influence the given issue.
A good number of professional lobbyists are former elected officials who have access to current elected officials and have no qualms about influencing them. While every citizen should have the right to lobby the government, the damage done by professional lobbyists is incalculable.
Worried about political corruption? Lobbyists tend to be right in the middle of it. While there are those of us who detest regulation, lobbyists who influence the government to look after the interests of the few rather than the voters should be regulated strictly.
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