Turf Changes Favor Corporate "Grassroots" Lobbyists

"When Congress reeled in traditional lobbyists in January, it gave a boost to lobby firms and trade associations that specialize in swaying lawmakers by stirring public sentiment in their districts," writes Jessica Holzer. House and Senate bills "ban gifts and trips from lobbyists," but "lobbyists escaped having to disclose their grassroots activities when the Senate ... narrowly approved an amendment to strip such a provision from the ethics reform package." Grassroots lobbying sometimes reflects real constituents' concerns, but often involves industry-funded fake or "astroturf" groups. "As old-style lobbying has lost its potency, scores of lobbying firms have sold themselves to big public-relations conglomerates with robust grassroots operations." For example, Federalist Group is now owned by Ogilvy Public Relations. Other firms specializing in "grassroots operations" include Direct Impact, Kearsarge Global Advisors and Bonner & Associates.