In 1979, a group of Washington, DC lobbyists met monthly over informal luncheons they quickly realized that to represent clients effectively before Congress and federal agencies, lobbyists increasingly needed to possess the level of education, training, practice, and skill through which occupations become known as “professions.” The effective and respected government relations professional is not only is well trained but also possesses characteristics of integrity and judgment that advance the legislative and regulatory processes. Our founders knew that the interests of lobbyists as professionals cut across political, ideological, philosophical, and economic lines.
Encouraged by the distinguished lobbyist Bryce Harlow, these professionals recognized that it would be beneficial to form an organization that enhanced public understanding and the development of the occupation of lobbying as a profession. Much as the American Bar Association assists in the professionalism of persons who, by occupation, participate in public process of adjudication, a society of lobbyists could assist in the professionalism of persons who, by occupation, participate in public processes of legislating and agency decision making.
The American League of Lobbyists — now called the Association of Government Relations Professionals — was born from this recognition of the stature of lobbying as a profession. Initially, AGRP was an unincorporated association of lobbyists who chose to meet once or twice a month to discuss issues that affected government relations professionals in order to increase their skill and competency without regard to the clients or causes.
Throughout 1979 and into 1980, AGRP’s meetings grew in size and scope. In the summer of 1980, League members decided that the League needed a more formal structure. Consequently, the League was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in the District of Columbia on September 11, 1980. The initial Board of Directors included such distinguished lobbyists as Thomas Finnigan, John Vance, John Jay Daly, Frank Martineau, Pat Waldo, and Kathryn Royce. The Internal Revenue Service recognized the League as a tax-exempt organization soon after its incorporation.
From its origin, the AGRP was open to any person engaged in the lobbying profession without regard to personal characteristics such as gender, race, or ethnicity and without regard to the institutions for which the lobbyist worked. AGRP represented the professionals engaged in lobbying, public policy, and advocacy. AGRP has been guided continuously by this notion of inclusiveness and collegiality.
On November 15, 2013, the membership voted to rename the organization as the Association of Government Relations Professionals. The change had been discussed at various times over the prior 15 years, and the Board of Directors decided to put the issue to a vote of the membership. 83% of the membership voted to rename the organization.