Many organizations and businesses try to keep themselves separate from what is often seen as the tumult of Congress. While this might work for a brief period of time, eventually Congress notices most industries, whether they wish to be noticed or not. This is particularly true if a business or organization earns a lot of money. It is a lesson that both Microsoft and Google learned the hard way. The simple fact is that the sooner you become involved, the sooner you will be able to protect as well as advocate your own interests.
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How much representation do you need? The answer really depends upon your size. If you run a small organization, a trade association may be enough to adequately represent your interests. It is not an ideal solution, but it is certainly better than having no representation at all. As an organization grows, it usually hires an outside lobbyist or establishes an office in Washington. Some choose both. If you are involved in an industry that is heavily regulated, it is even more likely your industry has representation in Washington.
How much influence do lobbyists and interest groups really have on Congress? It can be considerable, but primarily for the educational role. Take business issues as an example. It is impossible for any single member of Congress to know about every aspect of an industry. Members of Congress rely on lobbyists and trade associations to explain the way in which an industry operates before they form an opinion on issues impacting that industry. In many instances, such businesses may be the constituents of a Congressional member, which means that members of Congress are hearing about the interests of the people they represent. The entire process benefits from good advocacy when all sides of an issue are considered and represented.
There are all sizes and shapes of lobbyists. Most large businesses employ in-house lobbyists in their Washington offices. They may also belong to several trade associations and informal coalitions. Lobbyists may work full-time or part-time, permanently or temporarily. In any case, smart organizations and businesses rely on lobbyists and interest groups to protect and promote their interests.
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Reference: Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, Ch. 12 Interest Groups and Lobbyists
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