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It's So Cold in Alaska

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: there's nothing else to do so you might as well dance.

Has there been something, a bill or a cause, that you were rooting for from the sidelines that you saw just get pummeled by the process? I am not looking for any kind of movie-perfect defining moment, just something that was disappointing, disillusioning, something that you think should have gone down differently. Did the experience teach you about what not to do when pushing for a client's cause? Oh, and um, how about them boobs?

The girls are fine, thanks.

This is actually a hard question, because I've spent so much time immersed in the process of lawmaking that I'm pretty positive that very little of anything I've done/seen has any effect on pretty much anything/anybody, so it's sort of hard to root for something, let alone be disheartened about it getting fucked up. I just always figure that there's hardly anything going on in Congress that will affect my daily life, and tune it out except to be able to keep up with polite conversation

But, I guess I would say that I find the process itself disillusioning and disheartening. I mean, a Member's vote is often all about who has/has not given money recently, or who they won't get money from if they vote one way or the other, or how the leadership is telling them they ought to vote (with the attendant sticks and carrots) or, sometimes, even more dishearteningly about what some small sliver of vocal (and sometimes wrong) constituents has to say about an issue. There's no interest in doing some sort of objective "right" thing, even when there is such a rare objectively "right" thing, because just because it's right doesn't mean someone won't be pissed at them. There's so much CYA in politics and no interest in using their positions of (relative) power to educate their constituents or as a bully pulpit (unless they are running for President, and then it's mostly the crazies anyway). And when an issue's rightness/wrongness is more subjective, well, that just makes it easier to play around with it- who's paying attention back home, what/with whom can you trade your vote for another bill or a half-step up the leadership rung, can you get your face on TV if you talk about it... So, sure, I've seen stuff go down in flames because the people working it didn't bother to play each end against the middle, or figure out what the hook could be to get votes on the margins, or just assumed that they could push something through because they had a powerful legislative ally, and that's very educational for my job, but it's also sucks that it's hardly ever about the right or wrong thing to do for the country/the district, even if we all talk in those terms.

I recently got my first job lobbying for a membership organization at the state level. Any advice for an up-and-coming practitioner of the verbal and inebriating arts?

Depending on which state, prepare to be out-drunk regularly (obviously, this advice is not applicable in the state of Utah). In some states, like Wyoming (capital: Cheyenne), South Dakota (Pierre) and Alaska (Juneau), man, what the hell else are you going to do at night? Besides the utter lack of interesting nightlife that doesn't involve alcohol, it's also goddamn cold when those legislatures are in session, and most of the wives are back home. It's a total boys club, and boys like to drink and smoke and tell the occasional raunchy joke and see if they can't maybe get a little strange - usually only if you're a girl, but, hey, Bismarck in January can be a little like a penitentiary-like, so watch your back if you're a man, too. Work on your alcohol tolerance and your ability (while intoxicated) to politely and flirtatiously decline bad, drunken propositions from some ugly fucking dudes. And keep in mind that there's no girl friend to make sure you get home safe when you're out in the boonies drinking with the boys.

Do lobbyists have theme songs like the lawyers in Ally McBeal's firm?

For those of you sadly too young to remember, when I was in college Ally McBeal was the progenitor of the television genre of the crazy, neurotic and yet still somehow professionally successful woman (see also Grey's Anatomy). A concept totally divorced from reality, obviously. John Cage's theme song/dance number was maybe one of the best (or the only good, in retrospect) parts.

So, while there is no unisex bathroom here and DC people are likely too staid to dance en masse to Barry White in it anyway, there are definitely appropriate songs depending on whether one is a highly functioning alcoholic, a former Abramoff associate, a inveterate skirt chaser (link very NSFW), one of those sad PIRG/Greenpeace interns begging for money on K Street, a card-carrying member of the hypocritical religious right, a hopeless cynic, a frosty bitch with a bad case of penis envy (NSFW), or a chick here to get your MRS degree. But, if I had to pick one for myself, well, there's nothing like the eighties.

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