The start of the legislative session in Juneau means more than lawmakers returning to the capitol. Lobbyists will be returning as well.
The picture of a cigar -chomping, glad- handing lobbyist is no longer an accurate one, according to consultant Clive Thomas. Thomas has made a career out of studying political advocacy. A self-styled political junkie, Thomas has spent about three decades researching and writing about interest groups. He also teaches the basics of lobbying in workshops like the one he just completed in Anchorage.
With this year’s state legislature about to convene, a good many municipal advocates and community service non-profits are thinking about how to convince lawmakers to support their projects. But success on that score could be like gazing into a crystal ball, Thomas says.
He says, contrary to popular perception, the most important tool in a lobbyists’ arsenal is trust.
Thomas says that lobbying is the art of getting what you want – and that takes tremendous know-how and lots of people skills.
Thomas’ workshop was attended almost exclusively by those representing city administrations, and small organizations. Attendee Steve Hicks, said federal funding sources are drying up. Hicks heads the non – profit Alaska Association of Conservation Districts. AACD works with the state on natural resource and agricultural issues, but is not a state-funded agency. Hicks says he’s seeing lobbyists in a new light.
With weighty issues, like the coastal management plan and oil tax legislation bound to be on the front burner this legislative session, smaller concerns will have to speak up to be heard.
Thomas says lobbying is part of the political process.
Thomas says his workshops help people form a plan.. and that is essential. The key, he says, is making lawmakers want to help you. Although the political atmosphere can be intimidating, Thomas stresses that lawmakers are very busy people who don’t get paid very well. His advice: learn how to communicate your message briefly.
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