Ask a Lobbyist: Open Bars, Open Roads

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: Breaking the law, professional bullshit, and lipstick lesbians.

Since your job relies so heavily upon sex appeal, is there a sort of dress code for lobbyists? Can you, as a female lobbyist, wear a pantsuit or would that make you look like a lesbian and, therefore, undesirable to the old perverts up on the hill?

Like snakes the world over, lobbyists dress in order to blend in with the scenery. So, the standard lobbyist uniform is a dark suit like the rest of Washington wears. Skirt-suit, pantsuit, doesn't really matter, unless it's a cold winter day, in which case I'd look absurdly obvious skanking around in an Ally McBeal suit. However, even if I did look like a lesbian in a pantsuit, why would a pervert mind as long as I was lipstick and not just butch? What is the world coming to when lesbians stop being hot?

On the other hand, some lobbyists can't help showing off the money they're making, so it's not just Congress members running around D.C. with Mystic tans, collagen lips, face lifts, fake tits, or Brite Smiles. Though I think it's more a certain generation that favors the ostentatious rings and fur coats and crap, but maybe when I'm making that kind of money I'll prance around like that, too. I'll definitely be investing in the upkeep of the temple, if not the drapery.

My company doesn't have a martini budget. Will this hurt my ability to hire lobbyists?

In a word, yes. Absolutely. One of my few principles is that I do not pay for alcohol out of my own pocket on a weeknight -- and I certainly don't plan on being sober any weeknight. So, if I'm going to take a job or a contract, I have to have a martini budget/slush fund built in to treat myself and my eager Hill "friends" to drinks when I can't hit up a reception and don't need to go to a fundraiser with an open bar.

What's something that is done every day in the regular course of the lobbying business that is technically illegal for you to do?

This is an easy one (and here's hoping the fuzz isn't reading). I doubt there's more than a handful of lobbyists in DC who haven't driven while legally intoxicated. Because so much of the job involves attending dinners, receptions and fundraisers (and either socially drinking or drinking to blunt the horror of it all), few lobbyists use Metro, and it's not that hard to reach .08 on the Breathalyzer, I would bet that every day, somewhere in DC, a lobbyist is breaking that law. Makes you want to take public transportation, doesn't it? It's something you only have to get caught doing once (either by the cops or by your teetotaling Mormon boss), but once is generally enough unless you're a serious alkie.

What, you though I was going to say illegal gift-giving? Lobbying rules aren't exactly rocket science. I can't spent more than $100/year total or $50/gift on a staffer, Congress member or Senator unless it's for a "personal friend." I can't get reimbursed for gifts to personal friends, so I'm really unlikely to play around with that rule unless it's someone I actually like. I can't speak for everyone, but I've got no incentive, financial or otherwise, to break that rule.

I have always wondered if the qualifications to be a lobbyist include the inability to morally reflect on the completely fake and awful life one lives. I mean, do these people just stay so freaking manic that they CAN'T contemplate how they are ruining the best government ever seen on the planet? Just a question.

So, I'm ruining the best government on the planet? Like any other dealer, I object to that characterization of my work. If there wasn't any demand for what I am selling, then I would be out of work. But between wanting campaign money and having too many bills to be able to ever figure out the ramifications of all of them, Congress members and Senators need me around to tell them what it is that they're actually doing to or for my interests with a piece of legislation. Not that they necessarily care, but that's part of my job, too, and caring about what they're doing will occasionally keep them from losing re-election.

Maybe if we all bothered to vote, to start, and then voted for smart people rather than those with the best teeth/hair/campaign commercials there wouldn't be as much of a use for me. But, lucky for me, most of you don't bother voting (though find me a lobbyist who skips voting and I'll buy you a drink) and you vote for the best politician rather than the best, smartest or most ethical lawmaker. The "best government ever seen on the planet" is managed by politicians who appeal to the least common denominator, but I'm the one ruining it? Don't bullshit a professional bullshitter.

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