Public Policy Panel Discusses What It Takes To Be A D.C. Lobbyist

Public Policy Panel Discusses What It Takes To Be A D.C. Lobbyist

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Maha Neouchy
July 16, 2012

The Political Leadership Program welcomed a distinguished panel of D.C. lobbyists and policy-makers working in the Washington, D.C. area. The panelists openly discussed and answered questions which helped address the common myths, stereotypes, challenges and benefits that lobbyists and policy-makers face on a day-to-day basis.

 

TWC was happy to welcome three of its own alumni to the Blinken Auditorium at the Residential Academic Facility, including Rudy Barry, moderator of the panel and a 2005 TWC alumnus. In addition to moderating the panel, Mr. Barry offered his own insight since he currently works as the managing director at Whitmer & Worrall, a bi-partisan government relations and strategic counseling firm headquartered in D.C.

 

Panelists included:

 

1. Jamie Houton, assistant vice president of external affairs at Union Pacific and a 1986 TWC alumnus

2. Brian Summers, a Republican political consultant, president of Motown Ambassadors and a 1992 TWC alumnus

3. Gina Adams, corporate vice president of government affairs at the FedEx Corporation

 

The panel

 

Moderator's Question: What type of job would you hold before lobbying in order to gain experience?

 

Jamie: Lobbying has exploded due to the intersection of politics and money. The Hill is a very logical extension for lobbyists after undergrad or graduate school. Always make sure that you remain nimble and flexible.

 

Gina: I actually had no interest in lobbying. I was trained as a lawyer. But eventually I got a call from FedEx asking me to come join them after having a conversation with a colleague. I had been at the Department of Transportation for 9 years and I was either going to spend the rest of my career as a lawyer or I was going to transition.

 

Rudy: In the past, you would enter the lobbying world organically as a transition from another sector. But now there are actual political management degrees that you can pursue.

 

Moderator's Question: What are some of the strategies you use when lobbying someone on the other side of an issue?

 

Jamie: Just like in the field of International Affairs, you don't really have friends or enemies but interests. A congressman may be tier 3 when you start lobbying and then you fast forward a few years and they may have become highly influential political figures. It's exciting because you don't really know what will happen.

 

Also, always remember that you can't win every case because then there wouldn't be a need for a D.C. office. And you also can't lose every case because then you run the high risk of being replaced.

 

Gina: At FedEx we try to be very straightforward in our lobbying strategies. Our personal strategy is to provide FedEx's position and then let them know what the other side is.

 

Members and staff really appreciate the straightforward approach. You just need to realize that they will either be with you, will never be with you or will work with you to agree on some common ground.

 

Question from the audience: Is the lobbying world a highly competitive environment or does it consist of many dominant forces that cancel each other out?

 

Jamie: It's a little of both.

 

Brian Summers: Social media played a big part in what happened with the health care decision. It was all about the messaging.

 

Gina: The lobbying world is very democratic. You need to figure out the best way to approach a member. Some people use grassroots methods. Other tactics work when you know the member. It's about understanding impact that can counteract other methods.

 

Rudy: Make sure to keep up with trends and remain innovative or you will become irrelevant.

 

Whether you're  interested in corporate or federal sectors, the moderator and panelists allowed members of the audience to gain an inside look into the world of lobbying.

 

[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]

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