Petitions, Ballots, Meetings
Grassroots firms also specialise in generating attendance at town hall meetings and public hearings as well as signatures on petitions and attendance at rallies. National Grassroots and Communications sets up local organisations to support their clients using selected individuals from the local community who are paid and supervised by their own staff. The business of collecting signatures for petitions has also become a professional activity that corporations can pay for.
In California where bills can be initiated through petitions, the use of professional petitioners seems to be the way to ensure success. Two companies have been responsible for 75% of the 65 initiatives that qualified for the California ballot in the decade from 1982 to 1992. These companies also operate in Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Colorado. The people who collect the signatures get paid 25 to 35 cents per name. Often they have several petitions going at a time, which makes the operation more efficient. Increasingly it is only the well-financed who can afford to get such an initiative qualified.
James Gardner, author of Effective Lobbying in the European Community, notes that there is provision for citizens to petition the European Parliament and that this “furnishes a framework for a grass-roots lobbying campaign aimed at the Parliament and indirectly at the Commission and the Council.”