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“Lobbying is a dance of seduction…”

 

… our DC lobbyist advised regarding our industry association’s effort to get Congress to “occupy the field” in the regulation of our products. We wanted one federal program to preempt an expanding “patchwork” of inconsistent, conflicting, and difficult to meet state laws. Federal preemption was indispensable to our problem-solving.

As chair, at the time I could not give our legislative committee opportunity to examine his curious statement. It was said at a tense planning moment. However, years later, writing Winning with Lobbyists, Professional edition, to which he contributed, I asked him just what he meant.

He explained that he didn’t mean lobbyists exploiting lawmakers’ baser instincts, although that happens.[1] Instead, he meant that effective lobbyists present lawmakers with legislative opportunities beneficial to the lawmakers’ supporters, advance the districts’ general well-being, and portray legislators as doing the right thing. “Seducing” lawmakers quoting him is like giving them a “melody [that] seduces the ear with warm string tones.”[2]

Our association hired him to lobby US Senate Rs and another lobbyist to work US House Ds. [3]  Equally important to our success, if not more so, was our SGA team and associated state contractors convincing legislatures to enact favorable and defeat unfavorable industry bills.

Getting state legislative support made getting Congressional support surer, faster, and safer. And our bill became law in seven rather than the at-the-time expected ten years. [4]

Our approach to a technical non-political matter made state and federal lawmakers unite to look and do good. Rs and Ds, state and federal, were presented by industry with a “melody [that] seduced the ear with warm string tones” resulting in unanimous consent to federal preemption of state environmental laws.

During those intense years flying from state capitol to capitol, I honed my SGA skills. While I would never live that way again (e.g., top 1% of top 1% of Delta frequent flyers), I saw how state legislatures, a.k.a. the laboratories of democracy[5], can drive federal lawmaking.

Although our DC lobbyist’s metaphor was salaciously catchy, our work was indeed his kind of “seduction,” that is, employing the state-federal system as designed by the Founders.

Even amidst today’s at times utterly laughable and sadly pitiable partisanship, the US Constitutional framework is solid. A coordinated, well-planned, and executed national state advocacy program that benefits everyone remains an option to drive federal lawmaking. Our do what’s best for the country and us approach was so attractive that House sponsors ranged from Bernie Sanders (I, VT) and Sherrod Brown (D, OH) to Richard Burr (R, NC) and Chris Cox (R, CA).[6] It can happen again. The Constitutional bones remain good.

 
 
 
 

Footnotes

[1] Those triggered by the unseemly in politics best ignore the following story. But for those of us who live in the down and dirty real world, this is one of many examples of lobbyists sexually manipulating lawmakers. “Lobbying the Florida Legislature can be a labor of love.” This lawmaker was my district’s House member and incoming D House leader. He resigned from the legislature. The lobbyist got a job with a more prestigious employer.

[2] His definition is almost identical to the third definition when Googling the term “seduce.” The preceding two Google definitions are salacious and call to mind “honey traps” and “honey bees,” and the almost but not quite quid pro quo exchange between lobbyists and lawmakers in a system where power, not facts, votes.

[3] DC contractors collaborating with in-house lobbyists who mobilize supportive home district support proved that in-house with contractor synergy works, a theme of all my writings. As Jim Leahy, Boston master lobbyist says, “I’m a better lobbyist for the legislature. You are a better lobbyist for your lawmaker.”

[4] At the time a Congress would enact ~ten percent of bills introduced, which rule-of-thumb extrapolated to a ten percent enactment rate. Today Congress enacts ~two percent of bills introduced.

[5] “Popularized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann to describe how ‘a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.'” “Laboratories of democracy,” Wikipedia (accessed January 31, 2022)

[6] Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act

 

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