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Political Lobbying in the United States: A Primer

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If you watch a lot of national news on television or read about it in newspapers and magazines, then you have certainly heard and read quite a bit about the subject of political lobbying. But what is lobbying exactly? How does it work and who does it? This article provides a brief guide for those who want to learn more about this intriguing topic.

What Is It?

Political lobbying occurs when a representative of an interest group attempts to persuade important political actors, such as members of the U.S. Congress, to support certain laws or regulations or to take other actions that are favorable to the interest group that the lobbyist represents. Typically, a key aspect of political lobbying is that the lobbyist is compensated financially for his or her efforts, although in some cases lobbyists might volunteer their services. In addition to attempting to persuade politicians directly, lobbyists may also conduct advertising campaigns designed to influence public opinion. This is done with the expectation that having public opinion on the side of the interest group will put pressure on politicians to back legislature favorable to that group.

Who Does It?

A wide range of groups have lobbyists who look after their interests in the nation's capital as well as the various state capitals around the United States. Some of the most prominent industries in the U.S. spend huge amounts of money lobbying politicians. For example, the pharmaceutical industry spends about 281 million dollars on lobbying, according to Statista. Other interest groups that spend heavily on lobbying include the insurance, oil and gas, and real estate industries.

In addition to these corporate interests, labor unions, environmental groups, churches, and senior citizens organizations are often involved in lobbying political leaders as well.


In many cases, people who lobby political bodies such as Congress and state legislatures must register with the state or federal government. The federal law requires someone to register as a lobbyist if they spend 20 percent of their time lobbying and have two or more lobbying contacts. State laws regarding registration vary. For instance, in Georgia, a person must register if they spend 10 percent of their time as a lobbyist, while in North Carolina, the threshold is five percent. In certain states, whether someone must register is dependent on the amount of financial compensation they receive. For example, in Arkansas, an individual must register if they receive compensation of $400 or more.

For more information about lobbying, reach out to a company like Capitol Advocates, LLC.