Spring 2014 Politics and Public Policy Lobbying Workshop

Spring 2014 Politics and Public Policy Lobbying Workshop

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Danielle Artis
April 02, 2014

The Politics and Public Policy Lobbying Workshop hosted on Monday, March 10th was focused on preparing students to develop their own mock lobbying presentation. For the first time in the history of the Politics and Public Policy program, alumni equipped students with best practices and tips on hosting a successful first lobbying meeting with a congressional office.


Alumni who spoke and provided advice on the fields of politics and public policy included:


  • Donni Turner (’89): Capitol Hill veteran, former White House intern and legislative strategist. She is currently the director of policy in the Office of the Secretary Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and advises the Secretary on departmental policy issues, coordinates statewide legislative initiatives, and develops programs consistent with departmental and administration priorities. As a strategist, Turner has inside knowledge of the political system and works with the administration, members of the Maryland General Assembly, as well as members of Congress and their aides promoting legislative and public policy issues.
  • Christopher Cox (’89): senior principal and executive committee member of Navigators Global. Cox was most recently a special assistant for legislative affairs for President George W. Bush and brings more than a decade of legislative and political experience from his positions in the White House and U.S. House of Representatives.

Q&A Session with TWC Alumni


TWC: What is your process when preparing for a meeting with a congressional office?


Turner: Sit down with your client and figure out what the “ask” is. Make sure it is specific and to the point.  Also figure out the type of ask. For example, are you looking for an authorization or for an appropriation? Asking these types of questions will help you figure out which staff member is appropriate to meet with. It is also key to know if you are looking for the member to sponsor, co-sponsor, add or change an amendment. Make sure you do your homework!


Cox: There are three types of lobbyists: association, corporate and contract.  I’m a contract lobbyist and I’m hired to represent the interest of my clients on the Hill.  In preparation for a meeting, I always meet with my client first and narrow down the “ask” by going through three different questions including:


  1. What’s wrong with the current legislation?
  2. How can it be improved?
  3. What is our ask?

TWC: Does your approach change depending on the office or the “ask”?


Turner: Yes, you need to tailor your message to the specific member and their staff.  It’s like applying for a job. You don’t use the same resume and cover letter for all the offices/organizations you’re applying for, you tweak them.  It is important to develop personal relationships with staff and to know your audience.


Cox: If you have a personal relationship with the office, send a personal note prior to coming with your client in order to give staff members a heads up of the ask.  It is important to know as many people as you can and to continue staying relevant on the Hill. Study and become familiar with your issues and also be aware of the relevant legislation that is being introduced and passed in your field.


TWC: What kind of supporting documents do you bring with you on initial meetings with congressional offices?


Turner: Typically a one-pager or a folder with information on my client. You usually get only 20-30 minutes with a member and their staff so you need to have an elevator speech version of your “ask”.  In addition, you will need a bullet point version of your presentation that highlights the key points, costs associated, and how it will impact the industry or the districts of members. Just be prepared for a quick meeting.


Cox: My clients usually develop a one-pager and I edit to make sure it’s digestible for the member and their staff.  Don’t get too far in the weeds—that is what follow up meetings are for. Be conscious of their body language and the amount of time you may have with them by checking the votes of the day or asking how much time you will have.


TWC: After the initial meeting, what is the follow up?


Turner: Depends on the legwork and agreed upon next steps.  Make sure to follow up with any additional information promised or get in touch with the appropriate staff that might be introduced at the meeting. Personally, I always do a hand written thank you note.


Cox: Make sure before you leave you really understand what the answer to your “ask” is and what the correct follow up is. Be sure to email or call the appropriate staff members and set up follow up meetings or provide additional information as you see fit. Remember to be persistent but also aware of when you are being a pest.


Spring 2014 Student Questions


Lexi Gruber, student at Quinnipiac University and intern in the Office of Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), asked both alumni if it is necessary to have a law degree to be successful in this industry?


Turner: Lobbying was my first career after law school but my degree itself helped me start thinking analytically. And being a member of the state bar gives me the opportunity to go back and practice at any time.


Cox: Yes and no, but it is really up to you. Law school is expensive so make sure it’s the right decisions for you. My advice would be to do as many internships as possible, build your network, and try your hand on the Hill while you’re young.


David Taboh, a student at Dickinson College and intern in the Office of Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), asked if you can enter the lobbying industry immediately without a law degree or Hill experience?


Cox: The only thing that you’ll be missing are those important Hill relationships, so I would encourage you to get some experience on the Hill and expand your circle before applying for a lobbying shop.”


Turner: I agree, you need to learn the process and work on the Hill or for a state legislature.

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