A new lobbying nonprofit is riding the populist wave of the 2016 election cycle, aiming to crowdfund lobbying campaigns in order to give people a voice on K Street.
That’s according to Lobbyists 4 Good founder Billy DeLancey, who has worked in public affairs in both government and the private sector.
DeLancey, who registered as a lobbyist last month, says he will primarily use small-dollar donations to retain high-powered lobbyists who work on public interest issues.
“When they are able to get to the meetings, they’ll be able to say, ‘We're not being funded by a client, your constituents pay for me to be here,’” he said in an interview with The Hill.
“With the crowdfunding model, everyday Americans will be able to donate to cover a portion of a lobbyist’s hourly rate. Once the organization has raised enough money to cover the hourly fee, a lobbying firm or a self-employed lobbyist will conduct a high level meeting with a member of Congress or their staff to lobby for bipartisan legislation,” a release about the group says.
The idea has been in development since earlier this year, and DeLancey has already developed a working relationship with well-known law and lobby firms such as K&L Gates.
“Our lobbyists can access the right people, at the right time, with the right message, to make real and lasting change,” DeLancey wrote in a press release.
Somewhat modeled after the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (I-Vt.), who raised millions of dollars with an average individual donation of $27, Lobbyists 4 Good is seeking to lobby on some of the issues that have come up this election season.
First, the group is focusing on increasing funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace “to scale up their conflict resolution and peace building programs in Iraq,” a release said.
DeLancey, who formerly served in the Peace Corps, said he also hopes to eventually seek increased federal funding for the Peace Corps and United Nations peacekeeping missions.
Then, starting in 2017, there will be a second issue campaign revolving around money in politics.
“Lobbyists for this campaign will work to pass legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, implement a small donor financing system for elections, end the toxic practice of gerrymandering, and reform the FEC to actually enforce the laws that currently exist,” a release says.
Ultimately, DeLancey told The Hill, people will be able to vote on which issues they would like the group to tackle — and then give money to make it happen.
Causes that the group takes up must adhere to three criteria: They must enjoy bipartisan support, be issues that are unrepresented on Capitol Hill and benefit the "common good," DeLancey says.
Sanders’s populist campaign also took aim at lobbying as a profession, as most presidential campaigns do, but DeLancey hopes he can break the negative stigma around the practice.
“I got the advice not to use the word ‘lobbying,’ but I thought the word ‘advocate’ was disingenuous,” DeLancey told The Hill. “A lot of people don't understand that a lot of these changes that we are talking about at the presidential level have to start in the Republican Congress.”
“Protests, letters, and tweets only go so far and people are left feeling angry that their voices are not heard,” DeLancey said in the release. “Change in government takes time and you have to be smart, strategic, and persistent.”
In addition to the Lobbyists 4 Good nonprofit engaging in advocacy — which is classified as a 501(c)(4) — there will also be a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is allowed to “educate the public” about their issues.
Any donation over $5,000 will automatically go to the 501(c)(3) account to protect the advocacy arm from “the influence of large donors.”
Neither group will contribute to politicians.