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Meant to be Spent Alone

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: Booze is its own vacation.

How much time do you spend schmoozing your clients versus actual lobbying?

This depends on the company you work for, basically. My experience is that, in any job, there's always going to be a level of ass-kissery reserved for those that are paying you, whether that be your boss, people at HQ, clients or member companies. The amount of that ass-kissery in my job is entirely dependent on the size of the egos involved (which is usually inversely proportional to the intelligence of the people in question), their penchant for micromanagement and their lack of knowledge of how Washington works. So, for instance, a boss or client with an inflated sense of self-importance and no clue what the fuck is going on will usually demand that I detail every meeting, every news report and every lecture in excruciating written detail with attendant analysis and gossip. Not only does that annoy the shit out of me and take several hours out of my life that I will never get back, it takes away from the time I can actually spend lobbying on an issue. Then there are, of course, the concomitant meetings in which I must discuss, ad nauseum, what I've done, what I plan to do, how that will affect our goals, etc., etc. Those, too, take me away from actual lobbying. And that doesn't include ass-kissing dinners/lunches for current or prospective clients, or internal strategy meetings about how to separate our clients from more of their money or performance evaluations or those conversations when my boss comes by my office when he's bored and is all like, "hey, how are you?" and I have to pretend to be interested in the quality and consistency of his dog's crap or the color he's having his living room painted.

So, when I work for a boss that knows how Washington works and trusts that I know what the fuck I am doing, I spend far more time lobbying than sitting around on my ass writing memos and making nice in meetings. But, since the upper echelons of most places I've worked seem to be peopled with self-important, clueless micromanagers who care far more about maintaining their self-important fuckwit friends as paying clients than ever accomplishing what we promised to do to obtain their friends' patronage in the first place, I seem to spend more and more time schmoozing clients than actually lobbying. But, the schmoozing often involves alcohol consumption on the company dime, so that is both a benefit in its own right and helpful to surviving the schmooze time with as little psychological damage as possible.

Could you do a breakdown of, say, your own efforts? Is it trying to get pork or easing environmental regulations?

Well, look, I don't specialize in regulatory affairs or in approps lobbying, but there's a ton of approps lobbying that goes on, especially now that it requires getting a phonemark or a conference provision instead of just getting a staffer to insert a provision into the bill in committee. As for regulatory stuff, I leave that to the lawyer types who get their panties in a wad about Federal Register notices and dealing with OMB. That shit bores me to death- all the parts per million and precautionary principle and risk factors and whatever just make my eyes close even if I'm not hungover. Other than that, I'm an issue generalist- I can learn about and lobby whatever someone pays me to learn about and lobby. I tend to stay far away from touchy-feely issues, like guns or abortion or gay rights or the Iraq war, but that's mostly because they pay shitty (you don't have to pay someone as much if they're doing something they really believe in and care about) and the people who do work those issues have drunk so much Kool-Aid that it makes me uncomfortable.

What are you guys doing when Congress goes on vacation and all the staffers go home? Do you schedule your vacations around this time as well?

Ha, vacations. I remember those -- that's when you, like, don't work on a series of weekdays and you hang out somewhere more pleasant than your own house and do nothing all day, right? Those were cool. When Congress is in recess (also euphemistically called "district work periods"), the staffers don't simply stay home. They might go on CODELs, or occasionally a non-lobbyist paid trip somewhere, and a few take off on those vacation thingies (they are federal employees after all), but lots of lobbyists find that it's a great time to actually get appointments with staff and get other work (memo-writing, for instance) done. But, unless it's otherwise of some crazy importance, those lobbyists that do take actual vacations do try to schedule them during "district work periods." The rest of us just check out mentally between the third drink of the evening and the second cup of coffee of the morning and call it a vacation.

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