Challenges Facing Lobbyists in 2023
In addition to these exciting areas of opportunity, there will also be challenges advocacy professionals must tackle in the upcoming year. For one, the demographics of legislators are starting to shift; with more women and younger lawmakers elected to state and federal offices, fostering authentic relationships is more essential than ever.
At the state level, building relationships with newly elected officials presents both challenges and opportunities, Reynolds said. “So many of your legislatures are either very red or very blue,” she pointed out. “But particularly for those legislators that are in a new quadrennial or have a new set of membership, that relationship-building process is ever present for lobbyists who want to accomplish the specific objectives of their clients.”
On the Capitol Hill side, stark partisan divides are a challenge for lobbyists, Verdery said, with businesses seen as the enemy by both parties. “You see companies trying to figure out a way to appeal to everybody from far right to far left at the same time, which is pretty hard to do,” he explained.
Clients are also struggling to navigate the world of corporate policy and activism at the state and federal level, Snowden said, especially with red states passing legislation against what she termed “woke companies,” while blue states do the opposite and encourage the use of ESG principles.
Political and economic uncertainty is a major challenge for lobbyists, more than ever in 2023. “This is the first time in 20 years where I haven’t known exactly what to advise people to do,” Snowden said. Economic uncertainty, “clawing our way out of a pandemic,” and fights about the debt ceiling, budget, and appropriations are taking a toll.
That uncertainty around the federal budget is cascading down to the state and local level, Reynolds added. Local governments and nonprofits usually rely on governmental support to advance their missions, so “we are all sitting tight with our seatbelts fastened and trying to figure out what the Republican House is going to do on these issues,” Snowden said.
The Role of Bipartisanship
Lobbying experts expect that bipartisanship will continue to be a critically important component of their work, with people wanting to prove they’re willing to work across the aisle — at least on some issues. “I think you’ll see more efforts at bipartisanship this year, even among the most partisan players,” Verdery predicted.
Snowden used the example of Senator Raphael Warnock’s (D-Ga.) reelection campaign, which emphasized the bipartisan efforts he helped lead in the Senate. This bipartisanship “became a core component of his messaging on the campaign trail,” Snowden said. “We certainly know very little can get through this House and this Senate without bipartisan effort,” she added.