The DSM USA Policy Headquarters podcast is a monthly conversation between experts on public policy topics impacting business and the relationship between government and the private sector.
The newest episode explores what it means to lobby for business. Guests include Kellie Paschke, an attorney and lobbyist with Skinner & Paschke representing associations, nonprofits and for-profit companies, and Dustin Miller, a Nyemaster Goode Law Firm attorney representing the same three groups listed above, who also serves as the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s contract lobbyist.
Paschke says lobbying boils down to information gathering and sharing. In her role representing her clients, she takes the information from her clients to legislators. Miller adds that in the complicated world we live in, you can’t expect that every legislator knows everything they need to know about the organizations that lobbyists represent so part of a lobbyist’s job is to understand the issues their clients face and put those issues into a usable format in which legislators can make public policy that fixes those problems.
Law Students + Government Affairs
You do not have to be a lawyer to be a lobbyist, but Miller says government is complicated. He says one thing law school has helped him in his lobbyist role is drafting, or the ability to research and write legal documents. In the first months of law school, students are also walked through the different aspects of government, which is undeniably helpful for a lobbyist looking to understand the process better. Paschke says a legal background also allows a lobbyist to determine whether an issue is appropriate for legislation at all. While both agree there are many non-attorney lobbyists who are great at their jobs at the Capitol, they have found their legal education to provide additional benefits to their clients.
How Clients Can Help in the Advocacy Efforts of Lobbyists
Paschke recommends the first step is knowing who your legislator is and how to have a conversation with them in order to build that relationship. Miller says the first call to your legislator should not be when you have a problem. Develop the relationship beforehand so that you can get issues in front of your legislator as they arise.
Along with knowing your legislator, Miller advises talking to clients about how they define success. Paschke says organizations should ask themselves if they really need a lobbyist. Is their issue a global issue that other organizations are already tackling? Not every organization needs its own lobbyist.
When representing multiple clients, you need to make sure legislators know who you are representing at the time. Miller finds success with his approach of analyzing each of the four Ps:
Paschke says her philosophy is “know your audience,” which essentially means know the legislator and figure out what makes them tick, including the best way to explain an issue or advocate to them, whether that be through coalition building or having trusted constituents calling on them personally.
To listen to the entire episode, click here.
The DSM USA Policy Headquarters podcast focuses on public policy topics impacting business and the relationship between government and the private sector. Join us each month to hear from local Greater Des Moines (DSM) experts. To listen to more Partnership podcasts, click here.