Guest editorial by Sarah Speed
Lobbying…in a time of government gridlock, it feels like the root of all evil doesn’t it? Imagine slick haired, shiny shoed salesmen stalking the halls of the legislature preying upon good intentions and campaign promises, vying for the biggest yacht, the priciest dinner, and the deepest pockets!
The truth is, a lobbyist, especially a cause lobbyist is far more likely to look more like me – slightly stressed out, wearing a mix of Ann Taylor and Target, and popping into offices for appointments that have been rescheduled a dozen times. I’m armed with fact sheets, bill analysis, and gentle reminders of goodwill generated by good bills.
Our system is complex and although special interests certainly play a serious role in gaining access to legislators, it is far from being the end of the story. In a given session, legislators may consider 2,000 bills and be asked to vote on more than 400 of them. No one could possibly get up to speed on all of the nuances of so many issues. That’s where the information I can provide about the bills and the effect they will have comes in. Many legislators have grown to depend on our expertise.
Lobbyists can build trust by providing accurate and timely information on legislative issues. A good lobbyist will take the time to get to know each legislator and provide guidance and support on tough issues. A cause lobbyist probably doesn’t have a big bank account and all of the associated perks of a large lobbying firm. A good lobbyist makes appointments, makes friends, and quietly accomplishes progress on behalf of a particular cause. That’s what makes a good lobbyist…but an even better lobbyist is YOU. That’s right, YOU. There are many types of lobbyists, some work for multiple clients, some work for just one issue or one company, but the most effective lobbyist is the citizen lobbyist.
The citizen lobbyist is someone who takes the time to educate their legislators on the issues that matter to them. The citizen lobbyist may not have every answer, but that doesn’t stand in the way of making sure their legislator knows what issues matter and why. The citizen lobbyist doesn’t have any other agenda, doesn’t necessarily have a campaign donation, and doesn’t start out expecting much but realizes that unless they speak up, their legislator may never know how much their constituents care. Remember you, a member of the general public elected this legislator. Even if you didn’t vote for them in the last election, they are well aware that another election is always around the corner and they want to know what matters to the people who put them in office.
We can all be citizen lobbyists, each time you pick up the phone, each time you respond to a Humane PA alert, or any action alert concerning animals, each time you meet with your legislators and each time you attend a fundraiser you are one step closer to being an awesome lobbyist. You are one step closer to being someone who influences the future of animal protection and the lives of thousands of animals. I work hard as a lobbyist, I am honest and transparent, and I provide the best information available. Without you, our grassroots army, nothing would get done to protect animals. As a lobbyist, I am relying on you to contact your legislators, to bring issues that matter to your legislator’s attention and to set the stage for the importance of the information I am about to provide. Together as a team, a professional lobbyist and citizen lobbyist have the power to enact great change on behalf of animals in PA.
Sarah Speed serves as the legislative chair of the Animal Law Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, board of Pennsylvania Animal Response Team, and is also the Pennsylvania State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. In that capacity, she works on a range of animal protection issues in Pennsylvania as well as lobbying the legislature on animal bills.