For various K Street professionals, calling them “lobbyists” is not a compliment. Because of that negative image, the American League of Lobbyists is poised to do something about it. They are considering dropping the word “lobbyists” from its name.
The change is part of an effort to re-brand members as consultants and public relations professionals, writes Megan R. Wilson in The Hill. This identity crisis has again has become part of a larger debate over whether political insiders should embrace — or escape — the label that is becoming an obstacle to their work.
Registered lobbyists in Washington are at a 14-year low, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2013, the group estimated 10,290 registered lobbyists, in 2007, there were 14,842.
On one hand, lobbyists need to be effective advocates for their clients, by following the rules and making the best case they can for their position. Shedding the negative connotations that go with the term, say supporters of the change, members are allowed to do just that — the best advocacy they can.
“It sucks to have your grandmother look down on what you do,” one anonymous Fortune 500 company lobbyist told The Hill.
The negative image of lobbyists even affects the people hiring them.
Clients are reluctant to take on lobbyists, and bring them into meetings with lawmakers and other government officials. This view of the lobbyist as “bogeyman” limits their effectiveness and actually harms the process.
“The reality is, lobbyists spend as much time educating their clients about Washington as they do representing those clients,” said Bob Walker, executive chair of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates.
As the debate rages on, the American League of Lobbyists has not made a final decision on the name change, said ALL President Monte Ward. He insists that K Street is evolving.
And if they did change the name, Ward added, they will not drop the term in their slogan or other material.
According to the ALL website:
League members have rejected overwhelmingly the notion of running away from the term “lobbyist.” Whatever its origin, the term now stands for a profession – a profession that exercises, and assists others in exercising, the rights of free speech and petitioning government embodied in the first amendment. League members determined that enhancing the standing and reputation of lobbyists lay not in a change of terminology but in the sponsorship of meetings, events, programs, and most importantly, a set of standards that enhance the professionalism of lobbyists.
“They don’t run away from the term ‘lobbyist’,” Ward told reporters. “Our association will always represent the lobbyists and try to promote the profession — no matter what the name is.”