Lawmakers are influenced by voters on the campaign trail and donors who cut campaign checks.
But there’s another growing influence in Richmond.
Lobbying is a profession that hasn’t always had the best reputation. But it’s been around as long as people have been voting for candidates, and recent years have seen a dramatic spike in the number of lobbyists roaming the hall of the Capitol in Richmond. Disclosure forms show a 25% increase in the number of lobbyists over the last decade, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.
Rachel Bitecofer at Christopher Newport University says part of this is driven by technology. “When you think of all the new industries that have popped up over this past decade, is it really any wonder that you have to have growth in the lobbying sector to keep up with all these new emerging technologies?”
And Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says there’s another important trend, one happening in the gridlocked halls of Washington. “As Washington descends deeper and deeper into gridlock, the most effective use of your lobbying money may very well be in state capital rather than the national one.”
Another recent trend is former lobbyists running for office. Former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe is a former lobbyist as is Ed Gillespie, the Republican who waged an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2017.