What to Know in Washington: Lobbyists Cautiously Explore AI

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Lobbyists are scrambling to put their imprint on federal oversight of artificial intelligence and grappling with its influence on their own profession even as they predict robot lobbyists will likely remain in the realm of science fiction.

Some lobbyists say they’re willing to embrace generative AI. They have begun to experiment with it to ease tedious and time-consuming tasks, such as legislative analysis, background research, and drafting client memos. Others, eyeing it with trepidation, say they’re holding off to see how it evolves.

(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, right, shakes hands with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) before the start of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law Subcommittee hearing on Oversight of AI on May 16.

Lobbying in the future, they predict, will still hinge largely on human connections and relationships — the kind cultivated over late-night deal-making in congressional offices or grueling, junk-food-fueled weeks on the campaign trail.

Still, lobbyists are reckoning with possible dramatic shifts in how they, and the officials they seek to influence, do their jobs.

“AI will never replace the human element of lobbying,” said Andy Rosenberg, a founder of the lobbying firm Thorn Run Partners. “But with regard to our business, and the way we service our clients, we have to embrace it.”

Health care, financial services, and technology companies are all looking to influence Capitol Hill and the executive branch on whether and how to regulate AI. It’s a hot topic in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is hosting a who’s who of executives, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, Sept. 13 for a forum on AI.

The rise of social media and online activism, even the Zoom advocacy of the Covid pandemic, has not supplanted in-person lobbying. Veteran lobbyists say they don’t expect AI will, either, at least not anytime soon. Kate Ackley explains why.


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To contact the reporters on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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