Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Day as a Lobbyist

I spent the better half of Super Tuesday lobbying state legislators. I have to admit, I felt dirty. It was sort of sprung on me. Another pastor friend of mine and I went down to Pierre for Pastor’s Day put on by a group loosely affiliated with Focus on the Family (name of the actual group withheld to protect the pseudo-innocent). It was advertised to us as a chance to tour the capital, meet with some lawmakers, and pray for them and talk with them. Then we were to have a nice lunch where lawmakers would come and talk to us, and it was sort of understood that there would be some sort of recruiting speech as well. Well, it turned out the ‘meet and pray for the legislatures’ was actually a lobby these two bills for us. The one I was given, I didn’t even really agree with. It had to do with restricting ‘Adult Content’ business. I feel that is more of a local matter and the state government should not bother trying to zone municipalities. So, I walked around with a few guys and was shown the lobbying ropes, but I never said anything. I did meet one of my representatives and one state senator. I discovered that lobbyists are treated like bothersome flies by most legislators, and with good reason. We wandered around the floor of the House and Senate bothering people while they looked like they were trying to work. I did end up having a few good conversations. I just did my own thing after a while. I did ask a few legislators if there was a way I could uphold them in prayer, specific needs, that sort of thing. I thanked a few of them and that seemed to get the best response. And I got to talk with one Pro-Life Democrat who knew someone in Herreid. We chatted for some time until the professional lobbyist saw us together and made my friendly conversation a dirty lobby-like one. Still the legislator wanted his picture taken with me and my friend. The rest of the day did go about as expected, but it was an eye opening look into political life and the work of lobbyist. I came away with a few lessons.

1. Lobbying is a lot like bribery. A saw lots of gift bags from different groups.
2. Lobbying is a lot of intimidation. The professional lobbyists are ignored, so they bring in ‘constituents’ like me and try to make it look like I am not with him, but just a concerned citizen. Our badges said ‘Pastor’ so that it looked like I was representing not just myself, but a lot of other voters too.
3. Legislators have to hide to do real work. I saw a lot of them do this. And a few would stop the group I was with after the first sentence or so because they had already been talked to twice that day. I bet it gets annoying.
4. There are lots of lobbyists. I saw at least a large group of Midwife lobbyists and I met the Planned Parenthood lobbyist leader, or was shown whom she was without being allowed to speak to her. I also saw ‘Blue tag lobbyists’ those are the lobbyists from the government. They often lobby themselves. Yes, my taxpayer dollars pay for the Depratment of Education to come lobby the Legislature about taking over preschools around the state.
5. Theocrats love the government no matter how much they pretend they don’t. This organization was a Theo-conservative organization. They wanted the government to require lots of things in bills that supported their worldview. They had no problem with the government coming in and taking away a bookstore owner’s right to sell smut within a certain distance of about everything in a city. Yet, they were upset about a bill that would take away the right of a Pharmacist to not sell RU486 and other contraception. Their view of government is a bit contradictory. If you are wondering about the Republican Party dilemma, Theo-conservatves are the reason the Republican Party is moving left.
6. Lobbying without knowing what you are talking about is ridiculous. We were given large sheets of paper to discuss things about each bill. Try talking to a legislator sometime having to look down at a sheet of paper to get your talking points, not to mention the name of the bill. I bet a lot of people laughed at us all day.

Those are my early thoughts about a day of being a dirty no good lobbyist. I did get a lot free books and got to see government up close and tour the capital without a tour guide. All in all, I guess it was worth the day trip.

1 Comments:

pduggie said...

"They had no problem with the government coming in and taking away a bookstore owner’s right to sell smut within a certain distance of about everything in a city. Yet, they were upset about a bill that would take away the right of a Pharmacist to not sell RU486 and other contraception."

Error has no rights?