Maybe It All Works Out

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: future lobbyists of America.

I've been in DC for 6 years now and as a management consultant for federal agencies, I've gained a good deal of perspective about how the city operates and am quite interested in becoming a lobbyist. I'm willing to take a pay cut to 'pay my dues', but coming from a $150k+ annual salary, a staff job on the hill seems like too much of a step backwards. Do you have any advice for a transition to lobbying for someone in my situation?

Put some money into a savings account and suck up the pay cut. I mean, 90% of lobbying is done before Congress (with which you have little/no experience), and that's the majority of the really good money is, but you kinda have to know what you're doing from having been on the Hill, or take a pay cut and go in to lobbying at a very junior level. At that point, you might as well try for a staff job on the Hill, since it's not going to be that much less money and the salary jump will be much more significant when you're in a position to get a more senior level lobbying gig than if you worked your way up an organization into one.

On the other hand, if you want to work in the less prestigious/lucrative field of executive branch level lobbying (which involves a lot of talk-y meetings in ill-ventilated windowless conference rooms and federal register notice response writing and other things that make me want to stab my eyes with forks out of boredom), you're probably currently in a better position to get that kind of gig, since you might know the people (and you're definitely know the agencies) you'd be more or less hired to work with. But, if the idea was to do something completely different than what you're doing now, why would you want to work it from a lobbying end, and especially for less money?

I am interested in becoming a lobbyist. Could you point me in the right direction? I currently live in Georgia and I would like to lobby on the state level first and maybe move up to DC later.

Well, first off, Georgia's a big state. Unless you already live in/around Atlanta, the first thing is to live there. Second off, your best bet is probably the same as on the federal level -- get a job working for the legislature. Yes, I know, shit money, blah blah blah, but that's part of how it works. If you don't know anything about the political process other than what you learned in high school civics, how can you hope to influence it?

Alternately look at who lobbies there and start asking them for some sort of entry level position. It would help if you had some sort of idea what you wanted to lobby for (environmental issues, guns, health care, taxes, etc.) or some actual experience in one of those fields, but, hey, if you're just interested in shilling for something and making some money, you'll probably eventually get hired to do something. If that's the case, it would help if you were young, female and hot.

If you are those things, it's probably easier just to figure out which bars all the lobbyists hang out in and try flirting your way into a position. You probably won't have to fuck more than a handful of dirty old men, at least not until after you get the gig.

I'm a defense contractor, but I have some lobbyist friends and it sounds a lot like what I do for my program...just more fun. I am often chastised by my elderly, addled chain of command to shut the fuck up and not talk to anybody, and I hate it here. Is there a lobbying firm somewhere that would be interested in picking up someone with a security clearance who knows a ton of people inside the Beltway?

Well, what does the average lobbyist need with a security clearance? I'm not sure even the defense contractors' in-house lobbyists have 'em, though, naturally, they couldn't tell me, because then they'd have to kill me. So, while that does generally bring you more money (or an "in") in the defense industry, it's not really anything other than an item of interest on your resume in the lobbying world. Unless you want to work as a lobbyist for the company you're current at, or a competitor, trying to get more earmarks and crap in the approps process, a lobbying gig is going to be hard to snag.

However, if your problem with your job is working for a bunch of older fuckwits who expect you to believe that every word they utter is sheer brilliance and negates the necessity for you to speak, I wouldn't really recommend a lobbying gig. Much of my job is sitting around, shutting up and making other people feel like brilliant conversationalists. You probably even get paid better that I do, though I get to be sloshed half the time, so, maybe it all works out in the end?


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