Ask a Lobbyist: Overdraft Protection
Life in this backwards swamp can be so confusing to the uninitiated. Thankfully, we're here to help Americans learn how its Government Works for Them! And who better to explain which Americans count as "them" (hint: the ones with money) than one of those champions of representative democracy, a lobbyist? That's why each and every week our Anonymous Lobbyist friend answers questions from readers like you, all about what the hell she does and why.
This week, learn how to become a lobbyist yourself, and why (hint: money). It's all after the jump -- and don't forget to send in your questions.
How does one get a job as a lobbyist? Is this something one aspires to become and thus competes for internships, or does it happen by chance as one peruses the most recent job postings by one's HR department?
The answer to that question is probably as varied as the types of lobbyists that are out and about. Do you want to be a policy sales person? A policy-wonk? Do you really Believe in Something? It's a different answer to every question. I mean, there are tons of great policy sales people in this town who can bullshit their way up Independence and back down Constitution without ever saying anything helpful about a piece of legislation. There are fabulous wonks compared to whom engineers at MIT have great social skills. And there are wild-eyed believers who think that they're Right, and if you would just listen... Could be about guns, for Grover, it's taxes, for some, it's abortion (pro- or anti-), or whatever. Some people just Believe and want to Change Things. Church seems easier, but it doesn't pay as well, I guess.
And, yeah, there's the occasional company person who wants to help their company's bottom line or something. I suppose they go through HR, or through legal or PR departments, but it's hard to ask someone who seems normal like that why they would want to do this work. So, I'm not really sure what motivates those people, but they're around here and there. The real question is if you're one of those people, why you would want to wade around in the poorly-chlorinated kiddie pool with all us freaks and geeks.
But, yeah, internships are great for the resume, just don't really expect to get a job there when it's done. Most people that get lobbying jobs do the Hill thing, figuring they'll get paid only slightly less poorly than as an assistant in a government affairs department, but will be able to wiggle their way more easily into an actual lucrative job. They're mostly right, although the way you hear LA's talking about strolling into private sector jobs for $125-$150K, it starts to make sense why there hasn't been much turnover on the Hill recently.
Why would anyone want to be a lobbyist?
Um, does it sound like I'm recruiting? Because, hey, less sharks means more chum for me.
Or do you mean, why would someone work in a sexually-charged and non-litigate-able work environment and try to ruin our country through the buying and selling of our elected representatives? Because that's an easy question, but you should say what you mean. Unless you're one of us, of course.
I can only speak for myself, but I'm another highly-educated person with a couple of useless degrees (I mean, really, what else are you going to do with a PoliSci or IR degree but come to Washington) and a shitload of student loans. I came here all fresh-scrubbed with my black pumps and my navy suit and set out to change the world, and 6 months after graduation and 3 months into a $20,000/year job, Uncle Sam came calling and he wanted his fucking money. Whoops. Guess I should've taken a math class or something. So I started looking for a job that would pay the rent and Uncle Sam and MBNA, and suddenly I'm telling some Hill rat about the importance of H.R. 69 for the security of the nation while he pretends that he hasn't heard this shit about 10 other bills today and that he's not looking down my shirt, and I realized I'd sold out. But, hey, Ann Taylor's having a "sale" and I can still buy dinner afterwards without hitting the overdraft protection, so it's not as bad as it sounds.
Plus, um, free booze. The only times I've been college-level wasted in the last 4 years have been at work. When you're puking your guts out, you don't remember having forgotten your soul in a drawer 2 jobs
ago, and it's less of a waste of money because you didn't pay for the booze, anyway.
Do you often have to work with other lobbyists? What do you think of them?
Every real bill (as opposed to the ones that Members introduce to satisfy some constituent, and, Mom, stop emailing me about that stupid Lifetime network breast cancer bill, because some Congresswoman introduces that shit every other year for the PR) has a coalition of lobbyists who run around in packs trying to get it passed, and I am definitely a pack animal.
So, yeah, I work with other bloodsuckers all the time. Most of them are like me- overeducated former idealists who know most other jobs for which we'd be qualified (if any) wouldn't be as much fun. But it's
like every work environment -- you've got the people you talk shit with in the back of the room, you've got the people you wouldn't hang out with outside the office, you've got the back-stabbers and the credit-takers and the people you can't rely on to do their share. Some you like more than others, and some like you less than others. It's an office environment and, since most of us were former Hillites, it's about as clique-y and partisan and high-school as the Hill is.
Generally speaking, I think even most of the ones I wouldn't want to grab a beer (or 15) with are generally nice individuals, and most of them are smart and intelligent people. But if Satan really did have a big red ass, he'd be easier to recognize, wouldn't he?
Any openings on your lobbying team?
Honey, if I liked my job, would I be writing this column?