PLSC 083 Lobbying the Federal Government


October 22, 2001


Readings: Wolpe and Levine, Ch. 1-3.


Some notes on your papers:

Generally excellent introductions to your issues. A few wrote too much about your issues and not enough about the theoretical questions. As you revise the papers in view of the final term paper, keep this in mind: 1) make the revisions and address the questions that I point out. 2) focus on the theoretical questions first, case material in the middle part of the paper, then return to the theoretical (and normative) questions in the conclusion of the paper. 3) don’t forget to add more theoretical questions and concerns as you continue to do your reading. You’ll find more from Wolpe and Levine and other points that are worth discussing in relation to your case. So you will expand and improve on this introduction before your final paper is due.


Notes on Light: Almost all of you thought it was a good idea to keep logs, at least informally. One idea that did not come up: Keep track of how you make it through the end of this semester. As term papers, exams, presentations, and finals come due, plus the holidays approach, how are you going to get through? Planning ahead is essential. Use this semester to learn how to do that well. Second, many talked about the feasibility of getting to know your professors. Many are skeptical that you can do it, though you seem to agree that it is important. If it is important (and it is), then make it a priority. Note the difference in talking to your professors about an upcoming assignment, or just in general about courses, as opposed to complaints and problems after the fact. You’ll find faculty much more approachable when it’s about good things than about problems.


Wolpe and Levine:


Ch 1.


p. 7. The “myth of mystery” in how policies are made. Do you agree that this is a myth?


They give some reasons why things are not so much part of secret deals. Does this correspond with Browne’s discussion? Some of their reasons:


See table 6-1 from Baumgartner and Leech, Basic Interests, distributed in class. This shows the growth of the number of associations in America from 1959 to 1995. Also note how many of these were public affairs rather than other types of groups. Other studies have confirmed what political scientists call the “interest group explosion.” So that’s their first point; it’s probably true.


They give three fundamentals for a lobbyist:


Ch. 2. The Five Commandments


  1. Tell the Truth.


  1. Never Promise more than you can deliver.


  1. Know how to listen. What does this mean to you? “I want to be with you on this.” “I think we should do something about this.” Are these weasel words or can you count on them? Why are people so hesitant to commit?


  1. Work with staff, not around them.


  1. Spring no surprises.


Ch. 3. The Fundamentals.


  1. Define the Issue. People may not need to know your long-term goals. Get right to the point about what you need and why it is good public policy that the person would want to support.


  1. Know the players. Which arguments will work with which people. (Does this gibe with the previous advice to “tell the truth?”)


  1. Know the committees. Note whether they have clear or shared jurisdictions and what their different prejudices or constituencies are. Note that the arguments that work in the first committee may not be very powerful in the second. Why?


  1. Know the public policy rationale behind current policy. (Note this particularly for your issues. What is the reason we currently do what we do? Would all involved, especially those who made this law, agree that it is stupid? How does this relate to Browne’s discussion of what makes good and bad policies? What are the reasons for status-quo bias?)


  1. Prepare materials. One-pagers. (Why not longer?)


  1. Involve the client. (What can they do that the hired lobbyist cannot? How can this be helpful? How can it be harmful? Should the Sierra Club involve only its Washington professionals, or should they bring in amateur lobbyists from around the country? What’s the dynamic here?)


  1. Go outside when necessary. (Do all organizations have the resources to do this?)


  1. Anticipate the opposition. (Is it your responsibility to tell your allies about who will be opposed?)


  1. Be solicitous of your allies. Don’t waste their time. (What do you think of these examples?)


  1. Know the rules of parliamentary procedure. (do these matter? Would you lose credibility if you didn’t know them? How do you learn them? Do an internship.)


  1. Build coalitions. (Sound familiar? Lobby other lobbyists to join you.)


  1. Pay attention to both parties. Many members only know what their own caucus is up to.


  1. Observe basic courtesies. (Why not be a continual outsider?)


What themes can you discern from these authors’ pieces of advice? Do they seem to be bomb-throwers or insiders? Long-term or short-term players? Note that their perspective leads to advice that may be useful for them but less useful for other types of actors.