Hey Big Daddy,
I ran into a legislator at the gym the other day who’s been avoiding my
calls for more than a week. I need to talk to him about legislation my
client wants him to sponsor next session. If I’d run into him at a
restaurant or on the street, I wouldn’t have hesitated to stop him and bend
his ear, but I passed up the opportunity to talk to him at the gym. I
wasn’t sure if that’s territory that is off-limits.
-Exercised in Elk Grove
I think it’s safe to say that if you’re in a place where there’s a lot of
grunting and sweating, lobbying a legislator is inappropriate.
The gym is a great equalizer where wealth and status give way to generic
t-shirts and sweatpants. Men go without shaving, women forgo makeup and
hair, and suddenly the masses are just as Mao intended them to be: without
any great distinction.
A friendly nod of recognition to someone with whom you are not personal
friends is the extent to which gym contact seems acceptable. And if you’re
trying to get on a member’s good side, approaching him or her in the middle
of a set of squats probably isn’t going to do much to help your cause.
If you do engage the legislator at the gym, do it in the relatively public,
and friendly, confines of the gym floor, in between sets. Beware: Approach a
legislator in the locker room at your peril! The locker room is like church,
but with naked people. There are certain protocols and rules of decorum that
are simply not to be broken.
That said, there are exceptions. Lyndon Johnson was famous for trying to
keep people off balance, and didn’t hesitate to work members of Congress in
any variety of uncomfortable positions. Johnson was known to drag
Congressmen and Senators into the bathroom with him while he was upon his
presidential throne, and tell them what was on his mind.
If the legislator strikes up a conversation with you, fine, but you are,
under no circumstances, to make the first move. Even your naked ambition has
to be put in check sometimes. Remember this simple rule: When it comes to
naked lobbying, it’s important to respect the member.