The Lobbying Landscape Is No Longer Just For Insiders
By now you have probably heard thousands of election night stories. For our parent’s generation the question always was “Where were you when JFK was shot?” or “ What were you doing when the Berlin Wall fell?” for a younger generation it appears “What’s your November 9th story?” has a chance of becoming an equal touchstone.
No matter whom you voted for (or did not vote for) the election and aftermath have been fraught with emotion for many who find themselves thrust into a political world that glorifies the power of the individual citizen, yet does not provide obvious paths for exercising that power.
One common emotion expressed by voters and non-voters alike is that the government does not represent them, their interests, or the people of the United States in general. Such feelings of alienation are not easy to address and undermine the public faith government institutions require to operate.
During elections, the path to reconciling people and their government is clear although still difficult. Voting in primaries, meeting and participating in local party meetings, etc, are all ways of participating in the governing process during elections, but what about at other times? Outside of elections, interacting with and influencing our elected representatives remains a murky and vague prospect.
Corporations are masters at influencing of Congress between election cycles in a practice known as lobbying. Lobbying is a $3,000,000,000 a year industry where people are paid by groups to attempt to influence legislation in ways advantageous to that group or industry. Most of us, however, do not have $100,000 in spare change lying around to hire a lobbying firm to represent our interests concerning legislation Congress is considering.
We are in luck, two forms of political power exist: organized money and organized people. While corporations leverage organized money through lobbying, as average people we can do it through the combined power of our voices.
Enter Todd O’Brien and Ben Koren. Speaking on his experiences after November 8th, Ben Koren describes a feeling of helplessness that permeated public conversations.
“It was surprising and shocking the amount of rage we saw directed at the government if only there was a way to make them more accountable. That’s when I suggested that we build LobbyForMe not as a tool for people to get in touch with their representatives, but as a tool for activists to nudge others to get in touch with their reps. We did a ton of research that validated this concept, and the rest is history. And it’s a big differentiator of LobbyForMe versus other sites that simply facilitate your call to your representative.”
So what exactly is the best way to influence your representatives as a single citizen? To begin developing a solution to the lobbying problem Koren and his co-founder Todd O’Brien sought out a diverse group of professionals with political experience from congressional aides to activists to researchers.
“We learned that the elected officials feel most pressured when many constituents call their offices over a short period and demand the same action on an upcoming issue or vote,” explains O’Brien. “That really gets them worried about re-election.”
This research led them to create LobbyForMe, a toolkit that is used to “create shareable campaigns, allowing supporters to message their reps in just a few taps.” To begin with, LobbyForMe makes the creation and sharing of a campaign as frictionless as possible, allowing users to quickly create and disseminate campaigns for their causes.
Merely enter your address and record a message and LobbyForMe will make sure your voice gets heard by the appropriate members of Congress. Politics, however as the two year presidential campaign season reminded us, is a marathon and LobbyForMe continues to help activists follow through with analytics to help track the campaign’s reach, tweak messaging, and ultimately hold your representatives accountable.
LobbyForMe has already been used with significant results and demonstrable outcomes. According to LobbyForMe “We’ve had a ton of people create campaigns around the Obamacare repeal. But some of the more interesting campaigns have been those related to state legislation. We had a campaign called ‘Oakland Affordable Housing Issues’ pressuring the governor of CA to promote affordable housing, as well as ‘Healthy California: Single-Payer Healthcare’ pressuring CA state representatives to support a single-payer healthcare system for the state.”
Lobbying is a powerful tool for influencing our elected officials and is essential for any civically engaged person to be able to participate in. Thomas Jefferson once said, “that government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”
Participating in government between elections and interacting with representatives helps rebuild the mutual trust and respect our government requires to function. The “We the People” at the beginning of the Constitution does not merely refer to corporations or wealthy individuals and the ability to lobby with the power of organized people is essential to the reclamation and reformation of that government of the people, by the people, and for the people which we rightly value so highly.
To get create your own campaign for change, visit LobbyForMe and get connected with your representatives.