Lobbying at the state level involves attempts to influence state legislators, governors and state agencies. Local lobbying is aimed at local officials. Local units of government often do their lobbying through government sector lobbying associations. Lobbying at the federal level involves trying to influence Congress, the president, or federal agencies.
Direct v. grassroots lobbying
Direct lobbying includes any attempts to influence the policy making process directly, as opposed to grassroots lobbying which aims at influencing policy makers indirectly. In addition to campaign contributions to elected officials and candidates, companies, labor unions and other organizations spend billions of dollars each year to lobby Congress and federal agencies. Some special interests even retain lobbying firms on their behalf.
One example of direct lobbying would be an actual lobbyist paid to speak on behalf of an organization in senate chambers. To be lobbying, you must communicate a view on a "specific legislative proposal." You would be engaged in lobbying if you asked a legislator to take an action that would require legislation, regardless of whether the bill exists at the moment or not.
An example of grassroots lobbying is an organization sending out flyers urging citizens to contact their representatives in support of a specific legislative proposal. It is also considered a lobbying communication if you give information about the legislative process specific to proposed legislation, like identifying legislators' stances on the bill or identifying key legislators on relevant committees, in an attempt for citizens to affect legislation.
Evaluating government websites
Government websites should included or disclose:
- Database of registered lobbyists
- Agency lobbying contracts.
- All grants given to non-profit organizations with reason for the grant and a contact in the organization responsible for oversight.
- Any dues paid to government sector lobbying associations, and legislative agendas about what legislation those associations lobbied for or against.
- Example of proactively disclosed lobbying information: Anderson County, SC