Meredith McGehee is the Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center and principal of McGehee Strategies. She has been named five times by The Hill as one of the top nonprofit/grassroots lobbyists in Washington. McGehee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
IT’S A TRUISM that Members of Congress greatly depend on lobbyists for campaign fundraising. This is because lobbyists can do more than just give direct contributions: they can solicit the support of the entire company, industry, or organization they represent.
Until recently, this was a relatively coherent process. Lobbyists would help channel money to the right PACs, give advice to executives on individual contributions, and aid in managing bundling efforts. All of this was done under the fundraising restrictions imposed by the FEC, such as the $2,500 limit for individual candidates.
But things are different now, and $2,500 looks like chump change.
After the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org court decisions, meaningful limits are gone. Members of Congress are still turning to lobbyists for campaign funds, but now the “ask” is for $10 million instead of $10,000. The pressure to deliver this money will only grow as Democrats begin to fully embrace Super PACs, which they originally shunned.
Also burdening lobbyists is the rise of “dark money” groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors. Members of Congress see these as excellent avenues to get funding from a company or industry that they’d rather not associate with publicly.
Lobbyists at the center of the Washington money game will therefore be spending more time than ever figuring out how to respond to Member’s demands for money. So too will they be occupied trying to decipher who is behind the funds pouring in against their clients.
For the lobbyists who believe more in their powers of persuasion than their ability to solicit contributions, now is the time to speak up and support the American Bar Association’s proposal to detach lobbying from fundraising.