Some projects have momentum but that momentum hasn’t gone the way those who wish to influence would have liked. Many companies enlisted lobbyists for tens of thousands of dollars to help them secure some level of funding in the yearly energy and water development bill. If you are a municipal government, perhaps you hired lobbyists believing that you could receive direct dredging funding, while if you are a private business, you believed that this would lead to some Army Corps of Engineering program which would benefit some venture or another. You made those assumptions based on the last decade which doled out these types of funding to those who lobbied hard enough. Now you are faced with the very real reality of a House which has moved an energy and water bill with no earmarks. What do you now?
Another concern is all the folks who have vested resources in projects which will likely never see the light of day. Some have spent the first six months of the year lobbying on legislation with few cosponsors and no vehicle in sight to move the legislation beyond a basic subcommittee. Others have spent their time on amorphous projects to work with Congress on “business development” or “relationship building with their elected officials”, projects which are simply ridiculous in their naivety about the congressional process and likely a waste of money if you paid lobbyists to pursue them.
Those who wish to influence Washington must do a gut check to determine if their issue has a chance for movement in this Congress or not. If the issue has moved somewhat and there are achievable goals remaining, then your influence doesn’t require a tune-up. But, if your issue hasn’t moved yet or the movement hasn’t been to your liking, it is foolish to continue to waste money or time tilting at such a Washington windmill. Lobbying and influence building must meet the same rigorous criteria as other elements of a organizational expenditure. Organizations in these cases must determine if they need to change their priorities, hire or fire a lobbyist, employ a different lobbyist, take their lobbying in-house or just bide their time until the appropriate opportunity arrives for their issue.
A gut check is always a good idea for one's advocacy but now may be ripe to determine what your influence could look like with a more effective advocacy strategy for a difficult legislative climate.
Maury Litwack is an advocacy commentator and founder of the Capitol Plan, home of the Advocacy Strategy Guidance - http://www.capitolplan.com/asg