Lobby / Lobbying (CongressionalGlossary.com)

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Lobby / Lobbying

Lobby of the Willard Hotel, by ellenm1
Lobby of the Willard Hotel, by ellenm1

A group seeking to influence the passage or defeat of legislation. Originally the term referred to persons frequenting the lobbies or corridors of legislative chambers to speak to lawmakers.

The definition of a lobby and the activity of lobbying is a matter of differing interpretation. By some definitions, lobbying is limited to direct attempts to influence lawmakers through personal interviews and persuasion. Under other definitions, lobbying attempts at indirect, or “grass-roots”, influence, such as persuading members of a group to write or visit their districts’ representative and states’ senators or attempting to create a climate of opinion favorable to a desired legislative goal.

The right to attempt to influence legislation is based on the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to “petition the government for redress of grievances.”


Interest groups and lobbying


The usage of the term “lobbying” to pertain to persuading public officials can be traced back to 1820, two years before Ulysses S. Grant was even born (April 27, 1822). The evolution of the term “lobbying” by members of Congress themselves is implied as early as 1808 on the House floor (see §§ 1.6 and 1.8). Also, there is evidence of the terms “lobbying” or “lobbyists” being used to pertain to persuading public officials before Grant became president in 1869. Therefore, the term could not have been first coined in the Willard Hotel lobby.

§ 1.5 A Brief History: The Origin and Development of the Term “Lobbyist”, in Lobbying and Advocacy.

Also see







Testifying Before Congress

Testifying Before Congress

Pocket Constitution

Pocket Constitution

Citizen's Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials

Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates

Congressional Procedure

Congressional Procedure


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