FIND OUT WHO REPRESENTS WHO
By Phill Brooks, Director
Missouri Digital News (MDN)
One of the more valuable services Missouri Digital News provides for reporters is our database of registered lobbyists at http://www.mdn.org/2009/forms/lobby.htm. In any given year about 2,000 people register as lobbyists. Just about anyone who works to influence Missouri government is required to register.
That’s what makes this resource so valuable for reporters. Need a spokesperson for teachers? Just search the database for "teacher" or "education" and you’ll get a batch of sources. Search for a word like "health" and you’ll be overwhelmed by potential sources. You’ll get their phone numbers too!
At MDN you can search for lobbyists by name, address or what is called the "principal." That’s the company or association that a lobbyist has listed as an employer or client.
There are two types of lobbyists. If you see just one client under a lobbyist’s name, that’s likely an association or company employee whose job includes trying to influence governmental action.
The other type of lobbyist is one who works for several clients — like a lawyer representing different cli-
ents. Some lobbyists can have dozens of companies, trade groups and associations listed under their names.
For any one client, this type of lobbyist may be handling all of the client’s interests before the legislature. Or, the lobbyist’s work may be limited to a specific bill.
While this type of lobbyist might not be the best source when you’re calling about an organization or company, it’s still a good contact because the lobbyist can put you into direct contact with folks you need for your story. These lobbyists deal all the time with legislative inquiries about their clients. So they’re quite prepared to steer you in the right direction.
MDN’s database also is a good place to find out the folks who are working the legislature for your own town. That’s because persons who lobby for government are required to register (with some exceptions).
I should add a final footnote about lobbyists. They’re great sources for reporters because the diversity of clients they represent gives them a more balanced perspective on the issues we’re covering. They know all the sides. And with legislative term limits, some have historical perspectives unmatched by legislators themselves.
—Prof. Phill Brooks, Director, State Government Reporting Program, Missouri
Digital News; Missouri School of Journalism Statehouse Correspondent, KMOX.