Ask a Lobbyist: Career Opportunities
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.
Since New Years is supposed to be an opportunity to deviate from one's unhealthy/amoral norm, this column is in answer to the two most common questions that arrive in my Inbox every week. Please take this as an invitation to ask something else, and a request that you collectively cease asking these, okay?
1. No, I will not send you a picture of me naked. And, no, I won't send you one of just my tits/ass/genitals to "remain anonymous." I have no interest in the vast majority of you seeing me naked and, if even if I did, there is no free lunch, buddy. I don't care about your erection, I lose no sleep at night over your blue balls, and I don't feel the least bit guilty (although I do feel a little weirded out) that my writing gets you horny. Frankly, that doesn't seem particularly difficult.
If you really need to see a naked chick and don't have the energy to put any more effort into doing so that your average House or Senate leadership staffer, Wonkette's sister site, Fleshbot is ready to meet your free naked chick needs 24/7. I, however, am not.
2. Seriously, you read my column and it makes you want to be a lobbyist? And you think it's a good idea to email me your resume to "network" and get career advice? First off, sending your resume to everyone in D.C. that you can google an email address for is not networking, it's desperate and a little tacky (like calling that dude you made out with last night to ask him to be your date to some function). And sending all your contact info to random people you "meet" on this Internet isn't really a good idea. If you seriously want to be a lobbyist, you're going to have to be a little bit smarter and a hell of a lot more cynical.
But, if reading this still makes you want to be a lobbyist because you think it's all fun and games and easy money, please allow me to remind you of The Worst Toilet in Scotland. Rooting around in a shit-filled toilet is a decent approximation of many of my days. Take all that idealism about participating in the political process and chuck it -- you'll be spending your days dealing with (often stupid) sleazeballs in and out of government and getting solicited by Members or staffers for things you're not comfortable providing, during which you'll realize that whatever you're spending the majority of your waking hours working on doesn't matter in the least in the grand scheme of things. And then you get to go into work and be nice to the sleazeballs and placate the government people and pretend like what you do matters. That's why most actual lobbyists stop giving a crap about the issues they're working on or get the hell out of Dodge.
Plus, WaPo and NYT stories of Abramoffian excess aside, most of us aren't exactly rolling in dough now, and we definitely didn't when we started. The people that get the big money served their time in low-paying jobs on the Hill and with campaigns, giving them actual personal contacts and experience with the sausage factory that is politics; some people started in the Hill-equivalent jobs off the Hill and have spent decades working their way into middle management like the rest of America; and the really well-paid lobbyist have spent decades getting to be so by doing some of each. Your MBA is completely useless, as is your business or industry experience, unless you can get some company to hire you and eventually transfer you into DC for a stint. A law degree? Well, a newly minted lawyer with no political or lobbying experience will get paid either a mediocre Hill salary on the Hill, or a lowly legislative analyst salary off the Hill -- put those visions of maxing out (or even matching) your law firm peers far out of your mind. In fact, I know a number of young-ish lawyers who got tired of the rat race in a big firm and took a good size (30-70 percent) paycut for a lobbying gig. Plus, there's definitely a split in D.C. as to whether lawyers make good lobbyists -- I think they can, once they pretty much forget everything they learned in law school about the law. This isn't the practice of law, this is the practice of making it, or at least making it dance to your tune. Lawyerly reverence for the law is only a hindrance to a lobbyist trying to get shit done.
So, my advice comes down to: don't be a lobbyist. And, if you seriously want to sign up for this, leave your idealism at home, swallow your salary aspirations, increase your alcohol tolerance and be prepared for long hours, little money and the taste of bile in the back of your throat on a regular basis. Because it's supply and demand -- if you want to do this so badly (like, say, the girls at NARAL or the boys at the NRA or anyone on the Hill), they don't have to pay you and they won't. But when you're finally forgotten where you left your idealism, realize that your parents prefer not to tell people what you do and find that whiskey makes a great chaser for bile, then I might find your resume worth reading -- but, at that point, you won't be sending it blind to an anonymous internet columnist to try to get career advice.