The words “advocacy” and “lobbying” are often used synonymously, but drawing a proper distinction between the two can mean the difference between a successful outcome and a serious legal problem.
While all lobbying is advocacy, all advocacy is not necessarily lobbying. Generally speaking, here’s the difference between advocacy and lobbying:
- Advocacy refers to a host of different types of activism and engagement, all of which are designed to reach a desired outcome. This can come in the form of appealing to individuals, employers or even the public to draw attention to a cause by way of financial support, volunteers, or press coverage.
- Lobbying is any individual or collective engagement or activities specifically geared toward influencing lawmakers and legislation.
Grassroots Lobbying vs. Direct Lobbying
Public engagement can provide a significant or indirect boost to a particular advocacy effort, but it also must be navigated with forethought and precision. The intent of the campaign is of primary importance.
- Grassroots lobbying is done by enlisting public pressure to further the outcome of legislation or influence the decision of one or more lawmakers. For example, a campaign aimed at encouraging the public to contact their legislator and ask for a specific vote is considered grassroots lobbying.
- Direct lobbying is what we traditionally think of when we envision the role of a lobbyist. When a particular bill or legislative action has the potential to positively or negatively impact an individual organization or an association of like-minded individuals, businesses or non-profits, these entities very often will engage the services of an experienced lobbyist. The lobbyist will then approach the lawmaker or lawmakers, present the client’s arguments and try to persuade the lawmaker to act in the best interests of the lobbyist’s client.
Lobbying in Pennsylvania
Not only must Pennsylvania lobbyists register with the Commonwealth, they must also, register with the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (if they do work in those areas). In addition to these registration requirements, they must also file lobbying disclosure forms and report their expenses quarterly.
The same law governing lobbyist registration and reporting in Pennsylvania also lists a host of exemptions from the law. Those who do not receive economic consideration (payment) for their efforts, reporters and journalists expressing their opinions regarding certain measures or bills, and those testifying before a legislative committee or joint session of the General Assembly are a few examples of those who might be exempt from lobbying registration and reporting.
Intentionally failing to report lobbying activities, however, is considered a second degree misdemeanor in the Commonwealth and can result in severe penalties and fines.
If you’re looking to learn more about lobbying in Pennsylvania, or you feel you might need to engage the services of a lobbyist to address a bill, measure or legislative action that could either threaten or enhance your business or industry, call Pugliese Associates today.