I Want To Become A Lobbyist In Washington...

…how would I go about doing such a thing?

Get elected to congress, then retire.

Repeat after me…

“Cigarettes are our friends…tobacco built this country…you’re up for re-election…”

Heh. I hates me some cigarettes. Can’t lobby for them. I’ve got a soul, dammit.

I figure that you’d have to get lucky and make a friend in a high place or work up the rungs of an organization. Is this accurate?

Most lobbyists (to my understanding) have backgrounds in politics, publicity/public relations/marketing, or law. You have to have a fantastic understanding of how the political process works, and of course if you want to make a lot of money you’re going to work for big business or big rich organizations (tobacco, drug companies, casino, insurance companies, AARP [many don’t realize how rich & powerful a lobby they are], etc.) rather than social causes (women’s rights, orphan drug acts, gay rights, etc., rely on contributions just don’t have a tiny fraction of the money as businesses, of course).

Of course a good first step would be to become familiar with the nation’s top lobbyists and read their biographies (online, Who’s Who, Who’s Who in D.C., etc.) to see how they started. I’m guessing there are many different entries and, as with law and advertising, success requires 70 hour weeks and cutthroat competition. OTOH, you can make gazillions.
You’ll need to become very familiar with The Federal Register, read religiously and daily by most lobbying firms as well as media outlets. Most of the information in it is of interest to absolutely nobody (a proposed change in the insurance providers of the people building the government offices in Sasquatch, ND, or Bobby Ellison’s birthplace is being considered for a national park, or similar stuff) but this is also where every Executive Order appears first and anything having to do with changes in government policy and procedures must be printed. Lobbyists use this for many reasons- how to find what’s being considered, learning names of those active, etc… (It’s a very complicated document to describe, but you can google around.)

Typically, the way most lobbyists do it is first get a job or two on the Hill then, after being there for a while, go to law school. A competent law school will teach you anything you need to understand about how the legal system works and where changes can be made, but you’ll be most attractive to employers if there are Members that would recognize you on the street. That’s not to say you can’t start out as a young associate in a lobby shop or department without having the contacts, but in my experience, you’re operating at a large disadvantage compared to your colleagues from the Hill. You can work yourself up through the ranks as a back-room guy, but you’re not likely to learn how to shmooze when the partner can always take someone else to the function who is going to be able to introduce her to the ranking member of the forestry subcommittee.

While most of my experience is not personal, having gone to law school on the Hill, I know a lot of folks in this part of the biz.


Being a lobbyist is typically you do after get some serious political cred under your belt by being involved in politics and issues and developing a huge social/political network of contacts, either by being a politician, a person was was a top level player in government, or someone who doles out cash for various entities. You need to be part policy wonk, part salesman and a world class schmoozer. If you don’t qualify on these points it’s unlikely you’re going to be an effective lobbyist.

We have a couple of professional lobbyists on the board.

They might be around. But otherwise the above thread was a pretty good read.

Certainly this is true at the big time level, but to be a junior associate in a lobby shop, three or four years doing legislative analysis on the Hill is plenty. But yes, before you get to be a partner anywhere, or to be a big enough shot to lure your own book of clients, it’s a good idea to go get elected somewhere first.


This could be an impediment to finding success as a lobbyist. I have a friend whose father is a lobbyist. I believe he was able to overcome his “soul” problem through years of strict adherence to a mayonnaise-based-hors-d’oeuvre and scotch regime.