Ask a Lobbyist: No Rest For the Crooked
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: Things could get worse!?
How could things get worse, and who is working on that?
That is the question of the year, isn't it? Well, most people apparently think that I am (and my ilk are) working on making things worse through lobbying, and your officially elected Democrat Congress is working on fixing that by preventing me from taking them (or their loyal Republican opposition) or their staff to dinner twice a year or from dragging them out of Washington to see their "work" in progress. And, yes, if you think Congress members or staff can be bought for 2 $50 meals/year or a trip to some crappy trade show, you are either A) a cheap and easily-bribeable motherfucker (and where can I contribute to your Congressional campaign?) or B) someone who has never been to a shitty trade show.
One problem, though -- do you really think even a poorly-paid Congressional staffer is going to do what I say for a $50 meal, especially when he's got 4 others this week to fill in his lack of a grocery budget? Or do you think there's some sort of pernicious nexus between to whom I give campaign contributions and who I do get to do my bidding? If you think the latter, well then welcome to exactly the same kind of government you had before the November election. I'm still going to get hit up for contributions as hard as I was before, and there are plenty of Dems positioning themselves as the lesser of two Democratic evils in order to suck up my PAC's money. In fact, I'll already been hit up by the Saviors of Your Democracy for my money. So, um, yeah, ain't nobody working on fixing that.
Plus, as I've possibly ridden previously into the ground, nobody wants all lobbyists to go away, they just want those of us that they don't agree with to go away. Seniors don't want the AARP guys to stay in their plush offices, and the unions sure don't plan to go back home and spend their time educating their members or anything, and the enviros aren't going to leave Washington even if the oil companies do (just like the anti-tobacco lobby went exactly nowhere after the Tobacco Institute closed its doors). So, like everything else in America, the only lobbyists most Americans want to shut up are the ones they don't agree with and, technically (so far) -- and luckily for me -- our government doesn't work like that.
So, things could probably get a lot worse. You could lose your right to (some) privacy, or your right to free speech or your right to worship a deity or not as you see fit. But none of us lobbyists are working on that. We're mostly interested in how your tax dollars are spent or not spent on regulation or construction projects or whatever. But forcing things (like my little friendly dinners) into an unethical box means that you bring less sunlight to the situation, not more, and you force the smart staffers into the private sector and bring on the ones who don't understand or even see grey or are way better at covering their shit up. But, hey, Nancy, bring on the paperwork. It's cool.
Given how prone Congress is to going on vacation or campaigning in their home districts rather than working, what does a lobbyist do when Congress isn't in session?
Well, let me correct at least part of your impression here. When Congress is not in session, it doesn't mean that the couple thousand people working there kinda go home and chill out for several days until their bosses are back in town. They might go a little casual in the office or something, but they all work (at least) 5 day a week every week, at least 8 hours a day and often more.
What that means for me is that they're all still around, so I'm still around to meet with them or give them information or (for a little while yet) go out for lunch or drinks or something and talk a little shit. So, it's pretty much exactly like when Congress is in session, but I don't have to force a Congress Member to pretend that s/he remembers who I am or stand around in a likely area waiting to "run into" someone. It's a lot easier just to take someone to lunch than stand around in heels on those damn marble floors, and the food's better at Oceanaire or Fogo de Chao than it is at the Longworth Cafeteria.
What does a lobbyist do for a career after being a lobbyist?
Other than PR or prostitution, I have no idea. That's why I'm still a lobbyist.