what’s in a job title?

I have to admit that in certain situations, I hate telling people what I do. (Not to be confused with telling people what to do, which I love.)

When I was a hill staffer, I felt there was something noble conveyed in my public servitude (except at my 20th high school reunion when I got blamed for high gas prices). When I worked for non-profits, there was a sense of do-gooder-ness that mostly drew admiration. By contrast, saying, “I’m a lobbyist” yields a look of suspicious disdain. Thanks, Jack Abramoff, for making the American public generally find corrupt the one profession that’s protected by the first amendment. (I have a lobbyist friend who likes to call himself Chief Redress Officer, a job title that’s definitely in contention for my next printing of business cards.)

Yes, I lobby, but I also do much more. I develop and implement legislative strategies primarily on issues pertaining to energy and the environment for a small consulting firm of which I am a partner and part owner. I know, I know, it doesn’t have the ring of “I’m a thoracic surgeon” or “I’m a Broadway actress.” But I really enjoy the work I do. Together with my partners, we create meaningful progress to make the world a better place.

Regardless of the personal satisfaction I get in this job which is the marriage of all my skill sets, let’s talk about the L word. People think we are corrupt, have three-martini lunches on a regular basis and are to blame for the [fill-in-the-blank] crisis. I’m surprised that as part of the Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act, Congress didn’t also require registered lobbyists don a scarlet L on our lapels to warn elected officials and their staff that someone of potentially ill professional repute is in the vicinity.

Some of the restrictions contained in the ethics law I understand. No more paying for luxurious golf vacations in Scotland? Makes sense. The cooling off period for senior staff before they can lobby a former boss is logical. The gift ban? Thank you. I have a hard enough time identifying gifts for those who are near and dear to me. I don’t need the added pressure of buying gifts for people I only have a professional affiliation with. But the meal ban? Come on. When I was a hill staffer, if I was influenced because someone had bought me a $25 lunch, that wouldn’t have said a whole lot about my character or integrity. On the rare days when I had time to take lunch away from my desk, I ate with a friend I hadn’t seen recently or someone I was working with to advance my boss’s legislative agenda so we could strategize over lunch. (I used to call that kind of lunch killing two birds with one stone until someone reminded me that the Environment and Public Works Committee staff shouldn’t condone the killing of birds, unless those birds are hunting fodder.)

What strikes me as the most absurd aspect of this law is that while I can’t offer a staffer a ticket to a baseball game or buy them a lunch, I can contribute money to a Member of Congress’s political campaign. In fact, as a lobbyist, I’m expected to make such contributions. Let’s think for one moment about which of these actions (providing meals vs providing contributions) really wields more influence.

The most upsetting part of the lobbying profession being dragged down the scale to somewhere between prostitute and drug dealer is that every time Obama says the word “lobbyist” he almost seems to spit the word out. Yes there were (and probably still are) corrupt lobbyists just like there are bad apples in any profession. But to blame lobbyists for the current broken state of our country is ridiculous. After all, in the end, we can make the case to redress grievances but we aren’t the ones who vote on legislative measures or sign them into law.


I resolve to write more

Goals. Resolutions. Whatever you call them, many of us set new, higher, more challenging expectations for ourselves at the beginning of a new year.

As you saw, I did mine visually in the form of a goal board. But all you seemed to notice were the shoes.

Yes, shoes figured prominently for both literal and figurative meanings, but what you never would have guessed, given how little I have written in the new year (as in, this is my first 2012 post) is that I made some writing resolutions as well.

Of course, I resolve to write more.

Last night, tired as I was, as I was falling asleep a post was taking shape. I thought about getting up and retrieving the computer, but then I made the age-old writer’s mistake of thinking my idea was so brilliant that I would remember it all in the morning.

I was wrong.

I resolve to write my ideas down when they come to me, even if it’s after midnight.

As Congress continues its journey toward deeper and deeper dysfunction, my job is going to feel akin to waking up every morning and beating my head against a wall.

I resolve to use writing as a means to personal and professional satisfaction.

When it comes to the blog, I would love to add an outfit-of-the-day component, though that option may be on hold until I find a boyfriend who can take daily photos of said outfits. (Honestly, I would probably suggest he take a week’s worth of shots over the weekend that I trickle out Monday-Friday since there is rarely surplus time in my weekday mornings. Doing so would be great for wardrobe planning purposes, and might give me more precious time in the morning to eat breakfast or sleep later.)

There is a goal I’ve had in my head since I was oh about 15 years old, and that is to write a book. How angry was I when Bridget Jones Diary came out. I could have written that book. I essentially did write that book in the form of the scores of journals I kept in my neurotic 20s. Sigh.

Last winter, when I was confined to the house in the back brace, I got about 10,000 words down on the latest idea in my head. But then the doctor cleared me to sit and drive, which essentially lifted my social confinement, and I haven’t touched these novel beginnings since then.

I resolve to finish my book.

I probably only have about 70,000 words to go. Give me ten days of solitude in a gorgeous setting that doesn’t have sightseeing distractions, wireless coverage or Congress but does have good end-of-the-day rewards in the form of wine and food and I know I can get it done.

Or find a new reason to bang my head against the wall.