Hey Big Daddy,
I've only worked in the Capitol for eight months, but I think the most
interesting people I've met so far here are lobbyists. They also seem to be
having the most fun. What do I need to do to become a lobbyist? Is there
room for another one?
–Ready To Shill
Dear Shiller To Be,
So, you just got into the Capitol and now you're all ready to get out of it?
Clearly, you must be a Republican who already has grown restless with the
fact that once your bills die in their first committee, there's really
nothing productive you can do the rest of the year. I can sympathize with
you, since, as I'm unfortunately well aware, being in the minority party can
be about as exciting as attending a temperance rally stone-cold sober.
Whether the Capitol needs another lobbyist, and whether there's still room
under the golden dome for another backslapping, loafer-wearing glad-hander,
are two entirely different questions.
Big Daddy has a hard time believing there's enough work out there to justify
nearly 10 lobbyists for every member of the Legislature, but, clearly, he'd
be wrong, just like the time he thought locking all the Republicans in the
chamber until they voted for a school-funding bill would be a great idea.
Are there really that many businesses and righteous causes out there to
justify all of those cell phones and Blackberries? Son, that was a
rhetorical question, since it appears the lobbyists' best work has been to
gin up more business for themselves by going out and convincing every
pinochle-playing group of grandmothers that their lives will go straight
into the toilet if they don't have a lobbyist on retainer.
I will grant you this: Lobbyists probably do have a lot more fun than
legislative staffers who work for the minority party. Aside from having your
bills vanish into thin air, I'm certain no one comes to visit you, since
your boss' vote is relevant only about 5 percent of the time. Lobbyists get
to visit whoever they want, they get to pick their clients, and they get to
sort through invitations to dozens of cocktail parties at least three nights
a week, where they get to meet any number of attractive young women looking
for their next job.
So, what do you need to become a lobbyist?
Well, in no particular order, I'd say:
The ability to dish out a lot of crap. You're going to have to suck up to
people whose IQs couldn't power a pen light, yet you need to make them think
they're Thomas Jefferson, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Ted Williams and Big
Daddy, all rolled into one.
The ability to put up with a lot of crap. You're going to be wooed by
members trying to make friends with you, all so you'll hit your clients up
for the maximum contribution the law will allow.
Patience. You'll sit in lobbies, waiting endlessly to meet with lawmakers
or, worse, their wet-behind-the-ears staffers who are still trying to figure
out why you have to walk up from the fourth floor to the third floor in two
of the stairwells.
Detective skills. You'll have to loiter in hallways, trying not to look
suspicious or homeless, as you hope to buttonhole a lawmaker right before a
Mothering skills. You'll have to remind lawmakers a dozen times about the
iron-clad commitment they made to vote your way on a bill, as if they were
first graders being told not to leave their jackets on the playground at
The ability to say no or, better yet, a good metabolism. All those fund
raisers take their toll on your waistline. Big Daddy didn't get to be Big
Daddy by restricting himself to the celery sticks at these events.
A substantive, but not too flashy, wardrobe. You don't need to be a clothes
horse, but, on the other hand, I've seen what some of you legislative aides
think passes for professional attire. It doesn't cut it. Like it or not, the
clothes make the man.
Quick feet. The ability to walk briskly to catch a lawmaker or to dodge a
fast-moving telephone that may be headed in your direction can't be
If you've truly made up your mind to jump to the other side of the line, I
wish you luck, but if you are at all wavering and have any modicum of
talent, please consider staying under the golden dome on the side of the
angels, regardless of your party registration. In an era of term limits,
these wet-behind-the-ears Assembly members need all the help they can get.