What to Wear

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: are lobbyists ever just high on life?


Is it possible to be a functional lobbyist without being drunk, drugged, cynical or chronically depressed?

Well, are we talking about me, or in general? Because, if we're talking about me, I'd have to say that I'm coming to the conclusion that the answer is no (other than the drug part -- I'm not currently either legally or illegally medicated). This isn't my first job in the biz, or even my second, but (as is probably obvious), my cynicism with the political system, my dislike for many of the people who work in it, my contempt for the voters (and non-voters) that make all of this crap so easy/likely and the level of alcohol I need to drink to maintain the same level of intoxication only increases.

But, if we're talking in generally, then, yeah, sure it's possible. Some people can and do maintain their idealism, either through willful ignorance or by lobbying for something they really, really believe in. Although the Kool Aid drinkers might get a little down when they're losing (see: gun lobbyists in a Democratic Congress), they mostly really, truly believe that they're doing the right thing for their country and eventually everyone will understand that. They all kinda freak me out, personally, or make me have to try really, really hard to not noticeably roll my eyes, but that doesn't mean they aren't really effective.

Much has been said recently about the power of AIPAC and the other pro-Israel groups on the Hill. Do you think these groups really are better than everyone in lobbying? Is it just that they have more money or that they do things better? Why is it that no Congressman will ever grow the balls to speak against Israel?

Do I think that AIPAC is better at lobbying than everyone else? No, and they don't have to be- they just have to be better than the anti-Israel lobby, which isn't very hard because it's not particularly easy to support a group when even a goyim like myself reads your question and sees "ANTI-SEMITE" written in bold all over it.

I mean, yes, they're very effective, in part because of their direct lobbying and in larger part because of their grassroots work. It's also rather difficult to be opposed to an actual, you know, democracy in the Middle East peopled in no small part by immigrants (and the children and grandchildren of immigrants) of European descent (sound familiar?) that keeps getting bombed and attacked by extremist Muslim groups intent on destroying it (sound scary?). I mean, the U.S. policy on Israel is influenced by a combination of very effective engagement in Washington (between lobbying and political donations and major, effective grassroots activism), painful historical truths and the complete lack of sympathy among the vast majority of people in D.C. and out for those on the other side that insist on Israel's destruction as the only condition for peace.

So, what is there to speak out about against Israel? They should negotiate with terrorist militias? They should stop bombing when they get attacked? Shouldn't bomb pre-emptively? Shouldn't build a wall on their borders? Um, I'm not sure there are even people in Washington quite hypocritical to say those things, and that's saying something.

I'm thinking of venturing out of the land of Virtual Office Limbo (and sweats). My choice of professions will be driven to a large degree by the clothing I'll need to replace my aforesaid sweats (and the concomitant cost). I have a total of two friends I could ask, and they have shared, but I suspect there is a larger world to be had. You are a professional and the boys seem to like your style. So: What do you get to / have to wear as a lobbyist? Are heels involved? P..S I'm female. I do not have notable sweater puppies.

Well, D.C. is definitely a fit-in kind of town. Dark suits are de rigeur, even in the summer. Cleavage is allowed, depending on the employer. Pants vs. skirts is a matter of preference, though I know some friends that aren't allowed bare legs or open toed shoes in the office (even in the summer, which is torture in D.C.) so they do pants to avoid stockings in the sweaty season. As for heels, there's definitely a burgeoning cute shoe culture (not up to New York standards, but, still) and while there are some cute flats (and tall women can get away with them), heels are kind of standard issue. The cheap heels are the always the ones that kill your feet, especially since lobbyists tend to do a lot of walking. Invest in a couple of pairs of good, expensive shoes and forego Payless. You won't be sorry.

More importantly, don't knock your girls. My experience is that, to men, almost all sweater puppies are of note (and will be noticed).

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