Sunday, May 30, 2010

Political Advocacy for Beginners: Helpful Definitions

Coalition: Alliance of groups united for a cause. Some coalitions are independent; others who lobby Congress are affiliated with lobbying firms. (Examples: Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Health Care, End of Life Coalition, Pediatric Healthcare Coalition). Coalitions are required to disclose their members in their Lobbying Disclosure Act filings, per provisions in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.

Constituent: A resident of a district or member of a group represented by an elected official, One that authorizes another to act as a representative; a client.

Grassroots: Term used to describe action with a wide level of citizen engagement. Examples of grassroots advocacy include a union or association encouraging its members to contact a Member of Congress on a particular issue, typically with a particular policy objective in mind. Examples of other popular grassroots actions include letters to the editor, attendance at rallies, or signing petitions.

“Grassroots lobbyist”: This person is a “citizen lobbyist.” (See definition for “Grassroots,” above). Organizations such as the Sierra Club or the Heritage Foundation encourage their members to contact their Congressman on an issue, write letters to the editor, sign petitions, or attend rallies. These citizen lobbyists do not need to register under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act if they only engage in grassroots activities. However, some states do require the disclosure of grassroots lobbying.

Lobbyist: Person who advocates on behalf of himself or a client to pass a law or to make changes to a bill being considered in a federal or state legislative body, or to help shape policy in the executive branch and its regulatory departments. Lobbyists can come from either the private sector or from a legislative affairs department in a federal agency. There are two types of lobbyists: grassroots and professional. The House and Senate includes in its "Guide to the Lobbying Disclosure Act" a definition of a lobbyist as: “any individual (1) who is either employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation; (2) whose services include more than one lobbying contact; and (3) whose 'lobbying activities' constitute 20 percent or more of his or her services during a three-month period.” If this is the case, then this person must register as a lobbyist under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

“Professional lobbyist”: According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), this refers to a person who is compensated by an outside client or by his employer to lobby the government. This person typically engages in direct contact with elected officials.

Within this category there are two different types of lobbyists:
In-House lobbyist: This person is employed by an organization to lobby on behalf of its own interests. Examples of organizations that would employ in-house lobbyists: AARP, National Rifle Association, U.S. Telecom Association.
Outside (or contract) lobbyist: This person is employed by a lobbying or consulting firm and is retained by an outside organization to lobby on its behalf.

Branches of Government:

The Legislative Branch makes laws for State Government. It is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which together are known as the General Assembly. The Legislature meets biennially and all members are elected for two-year terms.

Executive Branch of government enforces laws made by the legislature. The head of this branch is the Governor, who is elected every four years. Along with the Governor, the Executive Branch also includes the Lieutenant Governor, the Council of State, and many State agencies.

Judicial Branch interprets what our laws mean and makes decisions about the laws and those who break them. The Courts of the Judicial Branch are split into three divisions, the Appellate Division, the Superior Court Division, and the District Court Division

The role of the United States Congress is explicitly defined and limited in the United States Constitution. The 10th ammendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people." The Congress is comprised of two chambers:

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