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For a Successful Client – Lobbyist Relationship – Include Clients in Lobbying

Have you ever heard this joke?

A potential client asks a lobbyist,
“How much would a retainer cost us?” Lobbyist: 12 thousand dollars.
“How much for you to lobby for us?” Lobbyist: 30 thousand dollars.
“How much if we lobby together?” Lobbyist: 60 thousand dollars.

Some contractors don’t want clients to do anything more than write checks. There are reasons for lobbyists excluding clients, some reasonable and others wholly self-serving. “A general rule to engaging any contractor is this, if you don’t manage your contractor, then your contractor manages you; and not necessarily to your benefit. This principle applies whether you are installing a new kitchen or hiring a lobbyist. The weaker you are as a client, and the less able to play your role, then the more likely you will be taken advantage of.”1

But the fundamental problem for exclusion is clients failing to make clear in their engagement documents they want a synergistic relationship with the contractor. In order for you as a client to be included in lobbying you must:

  • Make clear to potential contractors you will be involved.
  • Demonstrate that you are a good client able to fulfill your role.
  • State clearly your respective roles in the engagement documents.
  • Provide job performance criteria to guide your collaboration.
  • Include your delineated respective roles in the lobbying plan.
  • Periodically evaluate client and lobbyist’s job performance.
  • Be where you need to be, doing what you need to do, when you need to be doing it.

However, consider this. Maybe, you should be excluded. As a matter of fact, your presence could undermine the lobbying campaign. And if you would be a bad client, then the contractor may be saving you – and the project – from yourself.

To illustrate, I lobbied for a public interest healthcare group. Like many advocacy groups, half of their members should never be allowed anywhere near the capitol. Once we got rid of those who wanted to run gurneys up and down the capitol hallways screaming for health care, I coached the remainder in effective lobbying. Their photogenic spokeswoman learned to become a superb advocate and their face to the media.

They learned to be good clients who made a valuable contribution to the enactment of a law benefitting Medicaid patients.

Bad clients should be excluded from lobbying for the wellbeing of all. Most “straight-shooter” contractors are open to including good clients in lobbying. Good clients, as a condition of hiring, make clear they are hiring for a synergistic relationship; and as clients, they are able to uphold their side of synergism. Then there is no legitimate reason for good clients to be excluded from lobbying.

And, yes, most but not all bad clients can learn to become good clients.

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