Posts Tagged ‘SOPA’

6 Reasons Why Lobbying is Going Underground

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

A DECLINE IN reported lobbying is not always synonymous with a decline in lobbying. Many would argue, as some have in recent weeks, that like a crooked weather vane, disclosure reports are a poor gauge of what they were designed to reveal. The most convincing reason for this is that people are avoiding the whole disclosure apparatus altogether by refraining from registration, and thereby joining the ranks of the underground lobbyists, or “unlobbyists.” This phenomenon distorts the size of the advocacy pool (making it appear smaller than it actually is) and, by extension, the extent of its activity. It’s conceivable that if this trend continues, the “unlobbyist” will no longer prove the exception to the rule.

But this isn’t the only reason why an apparent slump in lobbying spending may be illusory. Here are six more offered by Thomas Edsall of The New York Times:

1) The Obama campaign – Tech innovations from the Obama campaign have improved the efficacy of grassroots advocacy and are rendering the middle man obsolete:

[T]he success of the Obama campaign in advancing computer-driven techniques to reach key segments of the electorate has produced a blossoming industry of digital and specialized communications firms using data analysis, microtechnology and computerized list-building to create public support for or opposition to legislative and policy initiatives – virtually all of which goes effectively undisclosed.

2) The Obama Administration – The administration’s anti-lobbying executive orders have ironically discouraged registration:

Taken together, these regulations have encouraged those interested in public service to find jobs that do not require them to register as lobbyists. Or, put another way, those who are eager for government work are not going to formally register themselves as lobbyists and thus make themselves ineligible.

3) Public Relations – PR is replacing GR as another form of advocacy:

To address diminishing revenues, lobbying firms have created their own public relations operations, subsidiaries with the same goals as the lobbying arm, that charge similarly high fees, but which do not have to be publicly reported to either the House or the Senate.

4) Digital advertising – It’s becoming more political. Edsall quotes Jen Nedeau of Bully Pulpit Interactive:

By using data-driven ads to craft a narrative, we believe that social media does not only have the ability to sell soap, but as we’ve already proven, it can help to get out the vote.

5) SOPA – It’s crushing defeat changed the rules of the game:

The scope of the ongoing upheaval in lobbying was brought home with a vengeance in 2011 and 2012 by the failure of traditional lobbying strategies to win approval of the Stop Online Piracy Act. In early 2011, by all normal standards, the odds were with passage of SOPA….The emergence of a powerful public force outside traditional avenues of influence put fear of elective defeat into the hearts of members of Congress and forced the lobbying community to beef up its own non-traditional tactics….Now, in the lexicon of Washington insiders, the acronym SOPA has become a verb, as in the warning to overconfident legislators: “Don’t get SOPAed.”

6) Social media – A cliche but nonetheless true:

[S]ocial media means almost anyone “can shine a light on” Congressional negotiations, so that company or association pushing an issue can no longer depend on the effectiveness of an old-guard lobbyist with good connections on Capitol Hill.

Grassroots lobbying and SOPA/PIPA

Friday, January 20th, 2012 by Vbhotla

In the 1980s the National Rifle Association pulled off one of the great lobbying/advocacy moves that is still remembered to this day. In an effort to defeat Congressional action, the NRA was able to organize over a quarter of a million calls and letters to Congressional offices within a 48 hour period. And this was during the 1980s! Before the Internet, before email, even fax for the most part! Since they proved their ability to organize members and generate interest, they have rarely had to do so again on such a mass scale. While there is debate as to whether they are still capable of organizing the required numbers of constituents to affect legislation, few offices in swing districts want to call their semi-bluff. Since it happened once, it can happen again. This week Congress saw the 2012 version of that NRA plan, and moving forward there are going to be some important lessons to be learned about grassroots advocacy and organization structure.

First, grassroots, like most legislative activity, can be divided into defensive (for example: trying to organize to prevent Congressional action) and offensive (trying to make changes to the current situation that will require some kind of active action). Offensive action is more technically complicated, since everyone needs to be on the same page, asking for the same thing, giving the same reason why it needs to happen, etc., but has the advantage of usually choosing the time it is required. This allows thing to be planned out and, more importantly, gives the upper tiers of the organization time to mobilize their members. Therein lays the weakness of most defensive grassroots organizational efforts: you don’t get to choose the time they are required.

The dirty little secret to real grassroots political power isn’t the number of members your organization actually has, but what you can do with those members and whether those members can be used at critical legislative times. If you have 10 million members that aren’t actually going to demi moore pokies do anything and can’t be mobilized, then they really aren’t going to make a difference in your legislative agenda when you need them. The number helps you get into meetings or maybe access to more resources, but when it comes down to generating letters or votes then the cat is out of the bag and the group can lose one of their main legislative tools.

However, a smaller group with a good top-down structure that can generate calls, letters, and e-mails, hold town hall meetings, contact other constituents, etc., in a timely basis can be much, much more effective. The question has always been how do you find a balance between an organization large enough to make a difference, but nimble enough to come together quickly, when needed?

This past week might answer that question. The opposition to the Senate’s Protect IP Act was able to passively organize a defensive grassroots movement. People go to Wikipedia on a daily basis, and when it blacks-out, they then want to know why. All Wikipedia had to do is shut down and post some info on what they want to be done, the site’s users do the rest. Google didn’t even have to shut down to generate interest and action; they just needed to black-out the site’s name. Most of the sites didn’t really provide facts or briefings for their users, just the message “Protect IP Act = BAD”. When people contacted their Congressional offices, they often didn’t have the correct facts on the phone or e-mail, but they were able to register their opinion with the legislation.

By shutting down, Wikipedia and others fulfilled the dream of every grassroots organization: they activated their members, and changed legislative policy. While black-outs aren’t a long-term legislative strategy, like the NRA they only need to be done once and then everyone knows that you can. Maybe the real lesson moving forward is the best way to organize your grassroots is to not go to work the next day.