Every week, our Anonymous Lobbyist answers your questions about how laws get made and why they probably shouldn’t. If you have a question about the dirty business of doing business in Washington, ask her.
This week: everyone gets their fifteen minutes.
We have heard about receptions, staff and fundraisers but does the average lobbyist ever get to meet with a congressman/woman in his/her office for a 15 minute “sitdown” to explain the client’s position on a bill? What about senators?
Sure. Not every lobbyist can meet with every Member/Senator (particularly if they are on very opposite sides of an issue), but if it’s on an issue in which they have an actual interest, or you have a real life constituent in tow or if it’s an issue where they think you can be useful, you definitely get your 15 or 30 minutes to sit down with the Member (generally, with his/her staff in the room, so that they know what the boss is saying). Because of my age/position and because there are more of them, I tend to meet with more staffers than Members in a given week. Plus, the Members have floor speeches to give and committee meetings to poke their heads into and fundraisers and pictures to take with visiting constituents and the like, so it’s easier and often more expedient to get in to see the staffer (who’s doing the heavy lifting on the bills anyway). Plus, if my boss knows I’m meeting with a Member on his side of the aisle, I either have to chaperone or bow out (depending on space), because it makes him feel all special and important. And, God knows, I live to make my idiot boss feel special and important by letting him flap his gums at someone.
What happens in a typical day for you?
Generally, when I get to the office, I try to sneak past anyone who might tattle on me or be annoyed by my arrival time, unless I have a meeting, in which case I try to sneak inconspicuously in the back with the other late arrivals (I figure that if one person arrives after me, I’m not the late one). If I’m in the office, I turn my computer on, get my first cup of coffee, try desperately to avoid my boss and then just sorta space out for an hour. I usually check my work email and my voice mail, then log into my personal email account and dick around with that for a while. I read the papers, surreptitiously check the want ads in Roll Call and email or call a few friends on the Hill to see what’s going on once the hangover fog has lifted enough to allow me to be pleasant. Then, there’s usually some hearing I can attend or a meeting I can manage to have to go to around 10 or 11, getting me out of the office until lunch, which I can no longer have with staffers, so I either try to meet up with other lobbyists, or head back to the office to have a “working lunch” that involves reading the dirty jokes my dad forwarded me while he was slacking at his office and a little gchat with one or more of my college friends.
After I finish the lunch hour slacking off, I generally end up going to a series of meetings in which I commune with other lobbyists about what we all ought to do, who should pay what, which fundraisers any of us ought to attend to make the others look good, and the general squabbling that happens when you get a mixture of big egos, smart people, stupid people, more egos and folks with something to lose in one room and try to agree on a legislative strategy. At this point in my day, I usually curse the end of the 3 martini lunch. If there aren’t enough coalition meetings to kill a couple of hours and I’m pushing hard on a piece of legislation, it’s back to the Hill to chat with a couple more staffers.
Then it’s back to the office to return some phone calls, watch C-SPAN, make sure that nothing important (ha!) happened while I was out, email some more people, and get ready for a series of happy hours and fundraisers (i.e., refresh my makeup, brush my hair and recharge my Blackberry). Then I spend another couple of hours in and out of cabs (and their stupid gas surcharges that they charge me even when they don’t bother turning the AC on) making the circuit, smiling and holding a drink and making nice with people until I run into someone I already know is evil/fun enough to drink with, and we ditch out and grab some food and some non-rail liquor and catch up, often making fun of half the people we just spent schmoozing and talking about needing new jobs.