Federal Lobbyist

Federal Lobbyist

DClobbyist

Washington, DC

Male, 44

I've been a Federal lobbyist since 1998. During that time, I worked with Members of Congress, their staff, key Federal agency decision makers and 3 Presidential administrations (Clinton, Bush and Obama). I worked on a number of high level issues for clients and fought many legislative battles on Capitol Hill.

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Last Answer on March 04, 2013

Best Rated

How does lobbying actually work? A client comes to you and says "I want X law changed to Y". What happens then?

Asked by t.s.rita.1980 over 11 years ago

The first thing a do with prospective clients is to consult with them to see if what they want to accomplish can be done in the current Congress and political environment. If I believe I can help them, they sign a retainer agreement. If they want to propose or change legislation, we draft model legislation and find a sponsor in Congress to introduce it in the House and the Senate. If they want federal money, we determine whether it's better to go the appropriation route or the Federal grant route. If it makes sense to accomplish what they want by going through the Federal agency route, then we help them do that. If we get the client's proposed bill introduced, then we work to get it passed in the subcommittee, then the committee then the House of Representatives. The it goes to the Senate and the whole process starts all over again.

How much straight-up "money-in-a-suitcase"-style bribing still goes on in DC?

Asked by Dport over 11 years ago

None at all. That’s not to say that there are no shady deals that go on, there are still some of those. They rarely happen, but they’re there. After the Jack Abramoff scandal, where a Member of Congress actually went to jail, Members of Congress and staff got scared quick. Lobbyists did too, to a lesser extent. Quid pro quo deals are not as blatant or as frequent as they once were; but they happen.

What background is necessary to become a lobbyist? Is it necessary to have been a lawyer?

Asked by dee cee over 11 years ago

It’s not necessary to be a lawyer, but it is very helpful. A big part of the job of a lobbyist is to understand policy and the way it goes from an idea to proposed legislation to committee debate to passage. That can be learned without going to law school. Also, Members of Congress all have Legislative Counsel who handle the legality of legislation. It’s more important for lobbyists to be persuasive and an advocate for their client --- which are similar to the skills lawyers have.

Does becoming an effective lobbyist require that you already have good connections in DC, or can you start from scratch and build relationships along the way?

Asked by dan79 over 11 years ago

Interesting question. I actually started from scratch with no relations on Capitol Hill. I learned the legislative process, learned what Members of Congress were on the various committees that mattered to me and started setting meeting with their staff. I built relationships along the way; some of which I still have today. I strongly believe that knowing the process is more important having relationships. People come and go on Capitol Hill, but the process rarely changes. With hard work --- and a friendly attitude, you can start from scratch and build relationships along the way to success.

Which bill that you helped get passed are you most proud of? How long did it take?

Asked by slowgrind over 11 years ago

Repeal of 3% Withholding Tax for Federal Contractors (2 years) Temporary Protected Status for Colombian Nationals (1 1/2 years) Resolution Recognizing National Surveyors Week (1 year)

What was the strangest lobbying request you've ever received from a client?

Asked by Felix Unger Games over 11 years ago

Good question -- there have been quite a few. The most recent was a client who wanted me to get Congress to pass a law that required them to read legislation before voting on it. That itself isn't bad, but he also wanted a clause in the legislation that required Members of Congress to take a 10 question quiz on EVERY bill they vote on to prove they read the bill.

Will you lobby ANY issue for a client? Even something you don't believe in yourself?

Asked by Chris over 11 years ago

I will not lobby for anything illegal or unethical. However, everything else is fair game. Under the Constitution, people have a right to petition the government to redress their grievances. Most people don’t have the time or the necessary knowledge to effectively petition the government. That’s where lobbyists come in. I don’t need to personally believe in something or support it to effectively lobby for it.

Thanks for the answer to my filibuster question, but isn't that sort of abuse exactly what's happening? I heard that Senators no longer get up and read the phone book like they used to; they just suggest that they'll filibuster something to kill it.

Asked by Brian over 11 years ago

The standing filibuster no longer exists. Although the party in power in the Senate often threaten to change the rules and bring the standing filibuster back, they soon realize that the political winds may change and they may be in the Senate minority, and be subject to those same rules. Then they back off.

Are you paid the same by clients regardless of whether their desired legislation gets passed?

Asked by Mo Cowbell over 11 years ago

Yes. I have retainer agreements that are usually good for 2 years. Of course if you never win, or rarely win you won't have very many clients.

Why are lobbyists necessary? Can't anyone submit legislation ideas to the appropriate government officials?

Asked by Joanie over 11 years ago

Yes, people can submit legislation ideas to Members of Congress. It's done all the time. The 1st Amendment to the Constitution provides that anyone can petition Congress to redress grievances. In fact, the White House has a website where anyone can submit a petition, and the White House will consider it (if you get 100,000 signatures to support it). The value of a lobbyist comes from knowing how to write legislation so that it will get the support it needs to pass Congress. Then bringing it to the right Member of Congress to sponsor it. Then working with that Member of Congress to get many co-sponsors on the bill. Then working to make sure it goes to the right Committee. Then making sure the right witnesses come to the hearing to support the bill. Then making sure the bill passes the Committee. Then getting support for it in the full House (or Senate) to make sure it passes. The doing the exact same thing in the other body of Congress. Then making sure it can be passed, intact, by both the House and the Senate. Then making sure the President will sign it. And, in many cases, getting public support for the bill along the way.

When you tell people you're a lobbyist, do you feel like they judge you unfairly? Do lobbyists deserve the bad reputation?

Asked by nickelwise over 11 years ago

Lobbyists do have an image problem. And we do very little to fix that problem. The public does not really know what lobbyists do. Most people think we are all like Jack Abramoff. In reality, of the 16,000 or so registered lobbyists only a handful are corrupt.

When you're NOT at work, does most of your conversation still involve politics?

Asked by Mia over 11 years ago

Good question! I try not to make it so, but inevitably, politics often finds a way into my conversations. See my answer to the question below!

Does lobbying work similarly in other countries as it does in the US? Do you have good international relationships too?

Asked by PKC over 11 years ago

I don't have a lot of relationships with international lobbyists, except for a few from the E.U. in Brussels. Most countries, like Canada and the U.K. have lobbying laws similar to ours, perhaps a little stricter.

Do you think lobbyists should be regulated in any ways that they currently aren't?

Asked by Bycer_96 over 11 years ago

Right now, registered lobbyists must filed activity reports 4 times a year and reports on financial contributions 2 times a year. The penalty for knowingly failing to file reports, or filing false reports is a fine up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years. There are also several "good government groups" that monitor lobbying activity. Lobbyists are also bound by the Honest Leadership of Government Act (HLOGA) which became law after the Abramoff scandal. The problem, is that the rules only apply to registered lobbyists. The average citizen lobbyist does not meet the thresholds to become a registered lobbyist. Therefore, they can legally do many things that a registered lobbyist can not, like give gifts, etc. I would support a law that says EVERYONE who meets with a Member of Congress for the purpose of influencing legislation must, at a minimum, register and be bound by the HLOGA rules.

What times of year (or term) are the best for you in terms of driving new business? Is the inauguration like your Super Bowl?

Asked by OKChip over 11 years ago

The beginning of the term is best because both parties and the White House talk about what they want to accomplish and clients are anxious to get in the game. For me, January 3 -- the first day of the new Congress is the "super bowl".

In the UK we think the U.S. filibuster is the craziest thing we've ever heard of. Do you think it's an important part of your democracy?

Asked by Brian over 11 years ago

If it is used properly, the filibuster is important. Congress should debate proposed legislation fully; a filibuster allows that to happen. However, if a Senator invokes the filibuster -- and does nothing else --- he is abusing the process.

Assuming you have a significant other, is he/she also involved in politics? If not, does that create friction at home?

Asked by Mia over 11 years ago

My wife does not have or want anything to do with politics, and what political views she does have are the opposite of mine. Sometimes, it does cause friction. But after several years of political debate on hundreds of issues, we initiated a "no political discussions at home" rule. I'm working on not breaking that rule too often.

What's a good "batting average" for a lobbyist? If you have say, 10 clients, how many of them will get what they want by enlisting your help?

Asked by Mo Cowbell over 11 years ago

It really depends on what the client wants. Some things are easier to make happen than others. For example, it’s fairly easy to get a bill introduced in Congress. It’s more difficult to shepard it through Congress, get it passed and get it to the President. These days, getting Federal funding for programs is getting tougher; but there are ways to make it happen. Many times, a client doesn’t get exactly what they want, but they get a solution to their problem. If 10 clients make reasonable requests, 7 or 8 of them will get a solution to their problem. If a lobbyist claims they can win 100% of the time, there is a pretty good chance they are doing something unethical to make that happen.

Is "House of Cards" a good representation of how politics actually works?

Asked by smokey mirror over 11 years ago

I haven't seen a full episode, but I did see the trailer. Based on my limited knowledge of the series, I'd say it's an exaggeration of how things work in Washington. Yes, there is quite a bit of backstabbing and backroom deals on Capitol Hill, but probably not enough to make for good television. I'm actually working on a documentary and a lobbying reality show to try and explain what really happens on Capitol Hill

Do you ever just get sick of dealing with politicians all day? Having worked with so many for so long, do you think most are just completely full of it?

Asked by Sammy $$$ over 11 years ago

As long as you remember that politicians on every level are only in their own political self-interest, it isn't bad. The best way to lobby is to appeal to their self interest.

OMG, that 10-question quiz idea before voting on a bill is BRILLIANT. Did you actually take on that client's request? Why or why not?

Asked by slowgrind over 11 years ago

No, I did not actually take it. I could tell that the proposal would not get very far and I do not want to waste time pushing an issue that likely won't get far. Also, lobbyists who push those type of issues are not taken seriously by Members of Congress and staff. That's not a good reputaton to have.

Isn't a donation to a political campaign just a different name for a bribe? Surely there must be some implication that, if I donate $1M to your campaign, you'll introduce laws favorable to me?

Asked by Alexis over 11 years ago

Actually, it's not the same as a bribe. Or at least it's not supposed to be. There are organizations in DC (like the Sunlight Foundation) that spend all their time looking for connections between political contributions and Congressional action. When they find it, they expose the Member of Congress and the political contributor. If that happens, the Member of Congress' career is done. Also, it's very difficult to prove a quid pro quo exchange. There are also limits to the amount of money that someone can donate to a campaign ($2500 for a primary, $5000 for a general election). Members of Congress will not risk their careers for such a meager payoff.

Do you think money plays too big of a role in politics and elections?

Asked by So-crates over 11 years ago

Yes. But most of the money comes from Political Action Committees (PAC) and Super PACs, not individual lobbyists. In fact, lobbyists have to file reports in Congress twice a year stating the amounts of political donations they make.

Do you have a lot of personal dirt on D.C. politicians?

Asked by Andy over 11 years ago

No. It's important for lobbyists to have good and honest relationships with Members of Congress and have a degree of trust. If I had personal dirt on a Member of Congress --- and I used it against him, I would lose my credibility on Capitol Hill.

Are lobbyists allowed to make political contributions?

Asked by brikhaus over 11 years ago

Yes. But unlike everyone, lobbysits have to file reports with Congress twice a year detailing every political contribution they make. Also, many Members of Congress (and President Obama) won't accept contributions from lobbyists.

How can I get a female off her charges of violation of probation when the whole start of the problem was not dealt with properly to begin with.. the woman has already lost a thumb and almost raped and now she failed 1 pee test because her daughter

Asked by Chad DeWeese about 7 years ago

 

Everyone's talking about how "powerful" the NRA lobby is. What are generally considered to be the most powerful or influential lobbyist industries in the country?

Asked by James over 11 years ago