TO: High-paid DC Lobbyist
FROM: Congressional Staffer of 6 Years
RE: Do’s and Don’ts of Meetings with Congressional Staff
1. Do NOT touch your Blackberry when you are meeting with me.
I was once in a meeting with a well-paid lobbyist and six of his out-of-town clients. As the out-of-towners attempted to make their case to me, his Blackberry make sounds twice. Then, he had the nerve to pick it up, check it, and send a message during the meeting.
Finally, I looked at his client and said, “I am having trouble hearing the message that you are trying to deliver today because his Blackberry is so distracting.” The look she gave him suggested that his contract may be ending soon.
Same goes for your phones. Silence them prior to the meeting.
2. Don’t schedule a meeting with me without confirming.
A paid-for-hire “executive scheduler” named Kevin S. has this system for setting up meetings with our office:
(a) He contacts the Member’s scheduler to request a meeting for his client;
(b) Scheduler nixes the request and punts it to me;
(c) He sets a time of his choosing and informs me via voicemail that his out-of-town clients have been advised of this “tentative time.” Will I confirm.
(d) I’m busy and don’t get the chance to let Kevin S. know that I have a schedule conflict.
(e) Clients show up; I’m unable to meet with them due to conflict;
(f) I call Kevin S. to ask him not to set meetings until he has confirmed with me;
(g) Kevin hangs up on me and calls my superior to complain.
This, I tell you, is the perfect recipe for having your calls to a Congressional staffer never returned again.
3. Don’t openly break the rules.
A certain health care lobbyists drives a navy Maserati. Colleagues have seen the Maserati enter secure areas without a permit. Not sure how Capitol Police would explain that. Public records say he made half a million in 2007 off of lobbying.
4. Don’t go around me to my superior.
Maserati-lobbyist also loves to walk into the office and directly into our chief of staff’s office. He wants to talk health care. The chief asks me to handle it because chief is overwhelmed with multiple projects. Mr. Maserati continues to rarely make an appointment and expects me to drop everything when he walks in – once before 10am. I’m really busy. Please don’t do that.
5. Don’t try bribery.
I have actually been on more than one phone call, and the person on the other end wants to talk policy/legislation in the same breath as a fund raiser for my boss. At that moment, I immediately cut him off and say, “Ethics rules disallow me to discuss campaign matters with you at this time.”
‘Nuf said. Please check with the Ethics Committee for further clarification.
6. Don’t flaunt your money.
We all know that many of the lobbyists who come into our offices make big money. Especially if they work for: (1) Big Oil; (2) any health insurance company or conglomeration; (3) most “energy companies,” or (4) specialty health care physicians; (5) trial lawyers; or (6) Big Pharma.
While it’s your conscience about for whom you work, don’t flash your money while you are asking the federal government for money. No huge diamonds. No Rolexes. No designer labels. No obvious recent plastic surgery.
Better yet, hire yourself a 20-something “junior lobbyist” to do this work for you. It’s likely that the Congressional staffer is her age, and they’ll jive a lot better anyway.
7. Do keep the meeting less than 20 minutes.
It is not a good thing if a staffer starts to stack up her papers while you’re meeting with her. That means you have gone on too long, and please wrap it up. If she says, “Well, we need to wrap up the meeting,” that means that the meeting is over.
The folder that you gave us will end up on our desks, at best, in a huge stack of other folders. Today, I had seven meetings from 1:30-5pm. Following up increases the odds that your request will be considered. No follow-up signals to us that you don’t care that much.
8. Do bring 3 people or fewer.
Congressional offices are small places. More than 4 people coming in for a meeting means one thing: the meeting will occur out in the hallway. It’s not a sign of disrespect, it’s simple logistics.
9. Don’t flirt during the meeting OR afterward.
A lobbyist whom I find very charming and with whom I like to work serendipitously met me out at a bar a couple months ago. After a couple drinks, his compliments to me started to get uncomfortably personal. Now I feel awkward trying to work with him. Bleh.
10. Don’t lie to the scheduler.
We’ve actually had lobbyists come in and tell the scheduler that they were “cleared” to come in and give our Member an award and do a photo-op. Cleared by WHOM? That maneuver was shot down faster than you can say, “Cheese!”