Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lobbying Scandals

As I have mentioned before, I am a lobbyist. Considering all the scandals about legislators and lobbyists currently bogarting coverage in our nightly news, I thought maybe I should set the record straight once and for all. You see, my friends and family have been calling me daily to ask some predictable variation on the following questions:

"So are you affected by all this Abramoff business?"
"You're not going to wind up in jail, are you?"
"Do you do stuff like that? I mean, do you buy them furniture and hookers and stuff?"

So here is your answer: HELL YES.

Actually, quite the opposite is true. I am an effective lobbyist, but not because I make good arguments (I do, but as you know Congress isn't interested in the facts). I don't buy lawmakers furniture, hookers, firetrucks, or kitchen appliances. I don't pass them foil-wrapped money-cakes. I don't take them on gambling junkets under the guise of "fact-finding" missions in Monte Carlo. My friends, I am an effective lobbyist for one reason, and that reason is my mad lobbying skillz. I thought I'd outline just a few of my innovative techniques here for your edification and reading pleasure.

Reverse Lobbying

The first creative lobbying technique I employ is a little gem I like to call "reverse lobbying." A friend of mine actually coined the phrase. This friend was formerly Chief of Staff to the Federal Agency That Makes Rules Affecting My Industry (FATMRAMI) but has recently left his post in an entreprenuerial venture that involves highly caffeinated vodka. Before he left, he bought me many dinners and picked up my bar tab on more than one occasion. As he defines it, "Reverse lobbying" occurs when I go out to dinner with a hill staffer or Member of Congress and THEY PAY. Unbelievably, this actually happens sometimes. Reverse Lobbying is especially useful when dealing with cabinet officials, who are expressly forbidden from accepting even the cheapest meal from lobbyists.

Picture one such reverse lobbying scenario that happened several years ago at a conference in Miami. We were all at some club called Mint about 2 hours before I had to wake up and make a presentation about "industry trends" and I had enough drinks to make me think jumping jacks on the dance floor with some Italian dude in a white leisure suit was a good idea and that stealing said government official's wallet and impersonating him in order to direct traffic and harass taxicabs was an even better idea. (Side note: Is it generally considered a "bad idea" to admit to felony offenses on a blog? If so, I must remind all my viewers, especially those in federal law enforcement, that I'm only KIDDING. Do you believe me?)

Anyway, at the end of the evening in question, we all got our tabs. Mine was noticably lighter than expected. I noticed a grim look on the government official's face when he got his bar tab, but I thought nothing of it at the time. Turns out my drinks ended up on his tab.

Oops.

These days, reverse lobbying is really losing its efficacy (that is to say, ever since this particular government official migrated to the private sector) so I've had to supplement reverse lobbying with other creative methods. Unfortunately I am not going to get a realistic lobbying budget any time soon, so I've simply learned to do more with less. As another step in my continuing journey for legislative excellence on a shoe-string budget, consider:

Bait and Switch Menus

The Bait and Switch Menu technique involves taking a staffer out to an extremely expensive and classy restaurant but insist that they order from the lounge menu.

Staffer: Wow, Citronelle! How nice of you.
Me: It's so nice out! Let's sit outside and order from the lounge menu!
Staffer: Well, if you want to...but it's 96 degrees and raining.
Me: Shut your cakehole and enjoy this nice bar food!
Me: Can I have the rest of your fries?

I Wanna live like Common People

See, the thing is, the bait and switch only works a few times before staffers stop having dinner with you. So you have to mix it up sometimes. Because my industry is a straight-laced, old-boy dominated industry, staffers who deal with my issues do not often encounter a lobbyist who is wearing Chuck Taylors with her suit. Rather than hide my weirdness behind serious attire and fine dining, I embrace and even trade on my reputation as an eccentric.

Doing so allows me to skip the expensive restaurant altogether in favor of taking the staffer to a dive bar, where I insist that they drink Shlitz all night. (PBR is another great choice, where available). The Velvet Lounge is one such great location because it's actually a second home to me and the staff is like family. If the staffer gets hungry, I can always run across the street to the soul food joint and bring them back some collared greens. Yum, yum, slumming is FUN!

Me: Hey, cupcake, I'm headed to the bar. What are you having?
Staffer: Um, a heineken?
Me: A heineken? A HEINEKEN?!?! F*ck that sh*t. PABST BLUE RIBBON!!!


Wrasslin for Earmarks

A third technique is both cost-efficient AND ethical, because it takes the quid pro quo out of "dinner deals" and puts it right back where it should be: "arm wrestling contests." This technique can be used on lawmakers, staffers, and even other lobbyists! In fact, it levels the playing field quite nicely. For instance, let's say I'm competing for earmarks with a lobbyist from a much larger corporation with a much larger PAC than my own (Note: My PAC is so small we don't have one). Ergo, why would i try to out-fundraise Goliath when I can arm-wrestle him instead? As you can see by my pictures, with arm wrestling you can cheat and call in reinforcements in order to secure victory while still remaining within the ethics rules. Pretty sweet, huh?

Me: So if I win, I'd get $900 million in the Agriculture bill for taxicab zoning changes, right?
Staffer: And if I win, you will water my boss' plants while he is working in the district. Or if he goes on an extended trip. Like, say for instance, jail.

Beat the Gift Ban on the Cheap!

With today's lobbying reform bills moving through Congress, cost-saving methods can also be important way to avoid getting south of pesky ethics rules such as the "gift-ban." The solution: all your Congressional gifts should be hand made. Think back to when you used to make your mom presents and how much more she appreciated that hand-crafted Valentine than its storebought counterpart! While this generally does not translate to adulthood (my old boyfriend tried this technique on his Mom one Christmas when he found himself financially strapped, but I'm pretty sure she did not hang his painting on the refrigerator...), it DOES work on hill staff.

Me: Hi Jane! Thanks for agreeing to meet with me this morning. I brought you a present! It's a bracelet made from beads that came from a necklace my sister left at my house while she was visiting, which I broke. I fashioned the salvaged beads into a bracelet, just for you. Do you like it?
Staffer: Do I have to wear it?

In conclusion, dear readers, I want to remind you that not all lobbyists are scandalous. Well, at least, not scandalous in the traditional sense...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

11 Comments:

Blogger KOB said...

So, lobbyists get free lunches, too. This post was great.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Pagan Marbury said...

You're funny. I'll keep reading!

8:25 PM  
Blogger Johnny Shades said...

Hill staffers at Velvet Lounge. Effing hilarious I say. Good times there Friday night, by the way. I thought Travis Tritt was awesome.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

Yes, that is ME, arm wrassin' two ladies (at the same time)---posing as said "hill staffer".

12:46 AM  
Blogger red storm said...

Quiet down Bruner! I was kind enough not to post the picture of you crying after we won.

1:20 AM  
Blogger rockthefaces said...

So, I just saw Thank You For Smoking last night. As a lobbyist, what do you think about that movie, if anything at all?

10:52 AM  
Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

Faye,

So where's the picture of you using your ENTIRE BODY WEIGHT down onto my arm and STILL not being able to budge my enormous arm?

Yea, that's what I thought ...

2:51 PM  
Blogger Captain's Logue said...

you got boog on the back of your shoulder, storm

3:18 PM  
Blogger red storm said...

Cram it Bruner. Those pictures do not exist.

And Rock the Faces, I haven't watched that movie yet but it's on the list!

3:25 PM  
Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

Storm,

Those pictures WILL exist after I get done with them 2nite, if you catch my drift.

He he he ...

4:05 PM  
Anonymous jesse said...

I'm pretty sure this may be the first documented use of the phrase "mad lobbying skillz". You know, they say you learn something every day, and today I've learned that, surprisingly, "cupcake" is a perfectly acceptable way to refer to a colleague in the lobbying vernacular. It's true. I read it on the Internet.

9:51 AM  

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