And results might not come at all, a fact that could frustrate individuals who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on an unsuccessful campaign for a bill. To manage the activists’ expectations, Litton said he is requiring lobbyists to use a private blog to communicate with the campaigns’ members.
“For most lobbyists, your reporting to your client is a necessary part of your job. You want the client to feel comfortable with what you’re doing,” Litton said.
But the lobbyists won’t be required to provide a phone number. With thousands of grass-roots activists potentially involved in each campaign, the firms will have to carefully manage their availability.
For Watts Partners, it’s not just the price that would have to be right to take on a YouLobby campaign. Managing Partner Steven Pruitt said the firm would have to agree with the campaign’s goal because, “Client identification stays with you for a long time.”
“I think it’s more out of curiosity, if you will, that we’re willing to engage [in YouLobby],” Pruitt said. “If you’re on the cutting edge of some new approach, that allows you to be head and shoulders above others.”
Pruitt said he believes the site could provide an important service.
“People can get the book on how a bill becomes a law, but it doesn’t tell them about detours and bumps in the road,” he said. “What a lobbying firm brings to that effort is insight and experience.”
Kush agreed, pointing out that well-funded grass-roots groups often hire lobbyists to enhance their efforts.
“It’s so complicated to get anything done in our government,” he said. “A paid guide in a complicated system is not a bad idea.”
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.