EDIT: I am trying to answer EVERY question that comes my way - but my wrists are killing me from typing so fast and I need to run to some meetings. So please do keep asking away if you have questions, but I probably wont be able to answer the next round until later tonight! Thanks to everyone who is asking great questions, and for all of you telling me to die -- well, you're ok too!

I lobby the federal government. Please ask me anything and I will try to answer truthfully.

I lobby on behalf of a transportation infrastructure organization, and in cooperation with several others. We are a foundation and member driven non-profit (I am obviously not paid by the foundations), do not have an associated PAC, and offer nothing to members of Congress aside from data to help drive our issues on their merits.

99% of my lobbying involves Congress, and occasionally I meet with the administration. Prior to this, I was a senior staffer to a member of the House and before that, a legislative staffer in the Senate.

I am hoping to clear up some misconceptions about what lobbying is, what lobbyists do, why it is important, and why it can sometimes be very harmful.

My Proof: Sent to the mods. I am not doing this on behalf of my current or former employers, which I hope everyone will be cool with!

I will be in meetings for the next hour and a half or so, but will do my best to start answering questions on my phone until I can get back in front of the computer.

Comments: 846 • Responses: 108  • Date: 

JRocBMuvin125 karma

Would say that lobbyist in general, help or hurt the average americans freedoms. More specifically are the majority of lobbying groups working to increase the interest of the powerful few or working to help the nation as a whole

HillLobbyist178 karma

You know...I don't know that I can really answer that without some real research. I'd say the majority of lobbying is for relatively mundane niche issues. I took meetings with cement manufacturers who wanted more sidewalks because it means more jobs for their workers. I took meetings with glass bead manufacturers because they wanted their reflective products in lane striping. I met with people who wanted schools to use more astroturf because their clients made it. Truckers who didn't want recorders in their trucks. People who wanted a week named after their particular cause. Is any of that bad for the country? I don't know. I don't think so.

Definitely had meetings with people who's causes I was objected to. Wood pulp manufacturers who wanted less air quality regulations. Always blew those off though!

Ridiku73 karma

Good on you for not lobby for deregulation of air pollution. It's true that people need jobs, stuff like building pavements, but at what point do we wake up in a world covered in pavements and AstroTurf and decide that profit driven society is kind of a pollution machine itself?

HillLobbyist83 karma

Do we want more jobs at the risk of the proven negative health risks from boilers - like increased cases of cancer, increases in miscarriages, asthma rates in children...?

It's a balance. The thing is, those employers can often times foot the bill for new infrastructure. They just don't want to because it affects their bottom line. Fuck their bottom line though. The health and safety of children > your shitty paper factory.

Irishguy31726 karma

What percentage of lobbyists would you say hold your same ideals and balk away from high dollars to merc for the "bad guys"?

How do you pitch for more sidewalks if they are unnecessary outside of passing along a $25,000 "contribution" to a member of Congress? How is lobbying for "bridges to nowhere" (honestly) better for the citizenry of the United States?

HillLobbyist22 karma

Well a few things. You can't give a member $25,000 dollars. But earmarks have also been banned for 6 years now? So the last transportation bill had zero. And there were THOUSANDS of earmarks in SAFETEA-LU (the last bill with earmarks). Most of them were not for bridges to nowhere.

Muaddibisme21 karma

What do you think about this statement:

Lobbying for one group/company limits free market opportunities for any other group/company who could potentially compete for the same roles? Especially if those competitors are unable to afford lobbying.

I ask in relation to statements such as:

"I took meetings with glass bead manufacturers because they wanted their reflective products in lane striping. I met with people who wanted schools to use more astroturf because their clients made it."

Are there not other companies who might have wanted those contracts?

Personally I take a rather hard stance against lobbying. It's not that lobbying in general is bad but rather that lobbying can be bad and history shows that we can't trust business (in general) to be moral on their own, especially when profits are on the line.

HillLobbyist17 karma

They werent looking for us to provide them with contracts. Just wanted a fair shot against cheaper, foreign made products.

Muaddibisme12 karma

Thanks for the reply.

In a free market, wouldn't the fair shot be either a better product worth the extra cost or a lower price?

I think you actually supported my statement with yours. You were lobbying to shut out the opportunity of others in favor of a particular group or company.

HillLobbyist30 karma

We are not in a free market. We are in a regulated market. What if the cheaper chinese product has high levels of mercury in it, which seep into the ground water and poison people/wildlife? Just let the free market sort that out?

Muaddibisme9 karma

Well, using your example, mercury rich product A vs mercury clear product B would definitely fall under the 'better product worth the extra cost' category.

The construction company paving the road is definitely under regulations to not use hazardous materials and thus a mercury rich glass bead for reflectors would be a poor decision for them to use, but I doubt there is only 1 source of such a product and that is the problem.

What about other domestic companies that might compete, why are they lobbied out of bidding? What about foreign competitors that are from countries that already have a more restrictive regulation on their products than the US?

So the short answer is yes, the market should sort it out.

HillLobbyist12 karma

they arent if those regulations arent in place. hence the lobbying!

Muaddibisme3 karma

Are you lobbying for better regulations or are you lobbying for schools to use astroturf because a client sells it?

These are two very different things and you stated one of them above.

HillLobbyist8 karma

I don't lobby for either. It was an example

Murgie14 karma

Truckers who didn't want recorders in their trucks.

I can think of many instances of harm which would inevitably arise from this one, yet not a single even remotely positive aspect.

Recorders are there to help determine fault in the event of an accident, and to ensure drivers are following applicable safety laws regarding how long they can drive before they become liability and a danger to their fellow motorists.

I met with people who wanted schools to use more astroturf because their clients made it.

That one, while far less important, is also a pretty clear cut instance of a negative outcome for citizens. If the public funded schools needed astroturf, they would likely request or buy astroturf without any need for financial "prompting" of (select members of) the government by the corporation in question.

Frankly, while I'm sure you're going to experience a notable level of undeserved anger directed toward you personally here, exactly how the clear an obvious dangers of the former example escaped you is simply beyond me.
And I suppose the latter example of powerful individuals being payed to enact policies that are against the best interests of the institution itself, in regards to its public cost/benefit ratio, is something we'll simply have to disagree on.

HillLobbyist27 karma

Recorders measure hours of service violations - not black boxes (still a safety component, so I agree with you, which is why we didn't side with them! But just because we disagree doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to tell us how they feel about it).

And I would maybe disagree on astroturf. Our children are more and more obese and are getting less and less exercise, while at the same time, funding is being cut across the country for physical activities in our school. The case they made to me was that, while there is a greater upfront cost with astroturf, the long term savings far outweighed traditional field upkeep. They had no specific ask. Just educated us on their product.

shameronsho2 karma

Astroturf blows. Field turf is where its at, holds up great in poor weather, painted lines are more bold, but those rubber pellets do suck when they get in your eyes.

HillLobbyist11 karma

Say that to a low income school that cant afford to keep grass in the field.

ichegoya70 karma

Have you personally seen what you considered to be unethical behavior by any elected officials, and if so, what action did you take, if any?

HillLobbyist71 karma

Unethical as in illegal or just shitty and awful? I have not witnessed outright illegal activity.

ichegoya42 karma

Shitty and awful, though? Can you offer an example?

Follow up - What influence have you seen the everyday (non-wealthy) individual voter have on their representative, or would you say almost every interest is co-opted by an organization?

HillLobbyist113 karma

I have to be a little careful about specific examples, but members vote all the time because a group asks them to even though it does not benefit their constituents in anyway, and may be contrary to what the bulk of their constituents want. that's why so many democrats have started supporting keystone. Labor pushes them to support it so that a few workers in the Midwest can get temporary jobs and labor can claim a win as "job creators".

ichegoya17 karma

That is certainly disappointing. Do you think that the recent supreme court rulings have had any effect on lobbyist/official relationships?

HillLobbyist37 karma

I don't really have a good answer for you, unfortunately. Not my area of expertise.

wckz9 karma

Do you think most members are actually well versed in the laws they vote on? I feel like most of them are ignorant about their policies.

HillLobbyist14 karma

Depends. Generally no, but thats what their staff is for. To pretend they know on the member's behalf!

ThePopesFace6 karma

Very disappointing, would you say that the members do this for personal gain(IE: kickbacks), or do they really believe it's in the best interests of the nation?

HillLobbyist23 karma

If members are literally getting kickbacks, they go to prison. That's 100% illegal. Some members do things because their campaigns will get cash infusions. That doesn't always mean they don't also believe its in the best interest of the nation. I think often times they just don't think much about it, occasionally they probably vote in shitty ways for cash. There's a lot of members. They all have varying levels of ethical sturdiness!

abefroman12313 karma

I love how getting a 'kickback' would result in prison time, but getting a 'cash infusion' to their campaign in return for voting a certain way is legal and ethical.

Up until 1989 they could just pocket any cash leftover from their campaign fund.

HillLobbyist4 karma

I don't think most people feel to good about it. I don't!

lilfrost58 karma

How much would it cost for reddit to pay for the services of a lobbyist? How could we go about doing that?

HillLobbyist105 karma

In this economy? I am sure people would lobby for reddit for 40k a year. But if you want a skilled lobbyist with good connections to offices and great relationships in DC to help give its users a real footprint? 70k-100k.

bleufoxx22102 karma

So everyone on Reddit should donate a dollar and then we can start lobbying for what we want in congress

HillLobbyist26 karma

Hah. Sure! But how does a place like reddit come up with a unified platform? What if certain members don't support it? Should they go elsewhere? Maybe reddit users should unionize!!

droog7434 karma

As a follow up. What would be the blue collar entry-level position to work for a lobbyist group?

HillLobbyist42 karma

Work on the hill. Grad school. Some sort of technical expertise within a field. It really depends on what you are lobbying for. Science? Plenty of scientists come and lobby. Working for Podesta? Former senior staffer to a member.

esotericish20 karma

To follow up, "lobbyist group" is a bit confusing. In DC the industry is government relations, and a lot of places hire people right out of college (or ideally graduate school). Hill experience is definitely the fastest way, but getting started working on the Hill is probably one of the worst jobs in DC. You make no money, probably have to work as an unpaid intern for a number of months, and there's no guarantee for quick upward mobility.

And also, many non profits, universities, associations, etc hire government relations staff. Many of these people begin by simply following what happens in the federal government but don't do much of what you would consider "lobbying". This is also a good start.

HillLobbyist23 karma

I wouldn't say working on the hill was one of the worst jobs I've ever had. It's a pretty exciting world IF you can geek out on policy.

I'm sure you can get jobs as low-level researchers and support staff at lobbying firms right out of college, but I do think there's a bit of glass ceiling there.

TuRondhu29 karma

How accurate is the portrayal of lobbyists in House of Cards?

HillLobbyist112 karma

House of Cards is not a political drama. It is a drama set in a political backdrop, which is an important distinction, I think. Watch the first 3 episodes of VEEP. The plot line with clean jobs/plastics is far, far more accurate.

mishiesings11 karma

Even all the swearing and imcompetence?

HillLobbyist21 karma

Gotta be able to shrug it off. It's not personal. People are right to be frustrated. I'd prefer they learn something about me before telling me to die though!

droog7420 karma

What is your take on paid lobbyists who do offer kickbacks whether intentional or not? And why isn't there a reddit PA? edit: spelling, words, grammar....

HillLobbyist40 karma

Many organizations now have PACs that allow them to contribute to member's campaigns, so the money flows from the PAC to the reelection committee and, by law, never goes through the member office. Of course, members and their senior staff are generally aware of who their supporters are and it does grant them some access. As a former staffer, I'd meet with anyone who requested a meeting under my issue areas, but I would agree that our big donors generally got meetings with the boss.

How do I feel about it? I don't know. I don't know how to change it when we have a shitty activist court that keeps overturning finance laws.

totallyLegitPinky7 karma

I don't know how to change it when we have a shitty activist court that keeps overturning finance laws.

What do you mean by that? I'm curious.

HillLobbyist27 karma

Well McCain Feingold put a lot of reforms into place, and so far the Supreme Court, particularly led by Republican Appointees, have effectively been overturning those reforms.

karmanaut16 karma

And why isn't there a reddit PA?

Assuming you meant to say "PAC": There was one. Doesn't seem to be active anymore, but they actively campaigned against Lamar Smith in the 2012 election.

HillLobbyist42 karma

If reddit is looking for a lobbyist to work on behalf of their PAC, I know just the guy!

fawre12319 karma

Can you name some of the most corrupt politicians you know, since you're anonymous?

HillLobbyist37 karma

Not my area of expertise at all. But here: http://www.crewsmostcorrupt.org/mostcorrupt. They do pretty good analysis!

notfurya16 karma

Do you travel outside of the DC area enough to see the seething hatred most of the rest of the country has for all things Washington? If so... do you think Congress knows what low regard the public holds for them?

HillLobbyist37 karma

Everyone here knows how frustrated the country is with the institution of Congress. But MOST people really like their own members. Check out the polling on that.

The institution is pretty broken. I don't really know how to fix it - but that's not really my job (thank god).

irishGOP41314 karma

The idea that people like their Member of Congress but dislike Congress as a whole is called Fenno's Paradox, and is a recognized and measured phenomenon in American politics.

HillLobbyist14 karma

In general, it has a lot to do with the fact that there's a lot of good representatives out there! The process is more broken than the people who work within the process!

Tartooth14 karma

I heard lobbying is just taking guys out for beers and being friends who suggest certain things to members of congress etc.

Is that what happens? Whats your average day like?

HillLobbyist34 karma

That's explicitly illegal. Like, federal ass-rape prison illegal.

If I am lobbying, I will send out an email to the office I want to meet with (generally targeted based on committee assignments). Once I know I am meeting with them, I will aggregate district data, do background research on the member's past support for our issues, and go sit with them and make our case. Usually some follow up - if they need more research from us or seem like they might be supportive.

AmericanHer013 karma

Do you feel like certain interest groups have too much influence over politics in America, or that since there is such a large number of interest groups that all viewpoints are equal representation?

Also, how true to life is the 'corrupt politican' stereotype?

HillLobbyist33 karma

I do feel that certain interest groups have too much influence. It's an undeniable fact. Watch the comcast merger happen (hopefully not!) and you will understand exactly where the interplay between money, lobbying, and politics comes into play.

I don't think most politicians are corrupt in the sense that they are shadowy figures. I do think leadership in both parties is super, super corrupt. An individual member of congress has almost no power unless they chair a committee or are in leadership, and that's where the money flows.

this_is_trash_really11 karma

What is the pay like? At what level are you? Entry? Mid? Executive?

HillLobbyist45 karma

Mid. Pay is better than working on the hill. Because we are a non-profit organization, the pay is less than if I went and lobbied on behalf of corporate interests. But I get to sleep very comfortably at night knowing I don't do that!

esotericish6 karma

To elaborate on this, Hill staffers are not paid well at all unless they're very senior (Legislative Director of Chief of Staff for example). Staff Assistants usually start at around $25k

HillLobbyist8 karma

I'd say 28-30k, but yeah. the pay is shit!

Facerless11 karma

What is the process for getting sit-down time with policy makers? Have you ever been bumped for a lobbyist from a big-money company?

HillLobbyist11 karma

As a former hill staffer, I took meetings daily with lobbyists from "big-money companies" and labor.

The process is really simple. MOST staffers will meet with just about anyone who requests a meeting. I know a lot of the folks who cover the issue I work on, but even when I don't, a simple email usually gets me in the door.

Try it! If you want to talk with your member, email your district office and set up a meeting.

nevertricked9 karma

Thank you for clearing up misconceptions, especially after House of Cards.

Also, good for you for working for a nonprofit, that's awesome!

HillLobbyist4 karma

It has been awesome!

knumbknuts9 karma

What do you think would be a more effective form of interest aggregation for the US? That is to say, what would be a (realistically) better way for U.S. citizens to express their wants, needs, and desires to their elected representatives than through lobbyists?

edit: it appears people can't see to grasp the concept of interest aggregation by any means other than lobbying. Even an amateur lobbyist is a lobbyist. I'm looking for ways of getting the voters' will to the elected representatives other than through lobbying, lobbyists, etc.

HillLobbyist37 karma

Lobbying on behalf of themselves. Never discount grassroots. Literally all you have to do is get organized, set up meetings with their district staff. Get people to write in to the national staff. Anyone can lobby. Just takes initiative.

thetechgeek49 karma

This may be a bad question but I don't really understand politics, so what is lobbying? Also, what do you do on a normal day?

HillLobbyist4 karma

Let me come back to this in an hour or so! This is a great question but I am running out the door!

Jk1868618 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA

I was a political science student, interned in different legislative positions and did an internship with a lobbying firm at the state level (although it was completely administrative and didn't involve any policy). I currently work for a state legislative body, but not in an elected official's office. I hope to keep the lobbying industry as a future option.

So my question. If you were hiring an entry level worker to your firm, what type of qualities, skills and experiences do you look for?

HillLobbyist9 karma

Hill experience would be #1 for two reasons. First, having an understanding of process, who the players are, and institutional knowledge on issues is super important for obvious reasons. Second, relationships are key to getting things done.

After that, the last of art of writing is important. The ability to form relationships. Wonky knowledge of issues.

Jk1868613 karma

well I'm a writer in the NYS legislature so I got that going for me

HillLobbyist5 karma

That's a great leg up!

necrotica7 karma

Do you see any ways to fix the dysfunctional and broken political system here in America that doesn't involve outright revolution?

HillLobbyist14 karma

Not really. Public financing of campaigns, redistricting reform, election reform. But will that happen? Nah.

Coenn6 karma

GG OP for answering a lot of questions whilst getting some serious hate down in the comments.

HillLobbyist2 karma

I am happy to engage honestly, even with the haters. I think a lot of people don't know exactly why they hate me, so I would love to open those dialogues up!

KrazyRooster6 karma

Hello, sir! Thank you so much for doing this AMA!! I always wanted to hear from a lobbyist.

Could you please tell us how much international lobbying is there in our Congress? I have heard many times about how some countries invest a lot to get some support from the US, but I never knew how usual/powerful that was. Also, do you happen to know which countries have the most power when it comes to lobbying and influencing our politics?

Once again, thanks for doing this!

HillLobbyist5 karma

I was lobbied by a few international energy firms (clean energy manufacturers from Israel and Germany, high speed rail from Japan), but other than that, I didn't see much of it. My issues were pretty domestic though! Can't really answer your other question in a meaningful way. I just don't know.

andersoncpu6 karma

Would not most companies be better off simply paying to fix what they are fighting against or for instead of paying a lobbyist to fight the cause? Are they not spending about the same amount of money on both sides?

HillLobbyist11 karma

It's not just companies lobbying. Particularly for issues like transportation, there are a lot of non-corporate special interests who represent grassroots interests. I've never worked in corporate lobbying, but I'd have to assume the answer is no. I can't imagine that there isn't someone doing cost/benefit analysis there.

melvinator6665 karma

i like the lobbyist guy.staying calm AND responding to dumb, half-assed comments/?'s.thanks and well done

HillLobbyist7 karma

I get the anger. Like I said to someone else. I wish people would take the time to ask questions instead of telling me to die, but what can you do?

ccccombobreakerbot5 karma

Currently, I am studying public relations and I really want to be a lobbyist. What kind of work experience and education should I go into? I'm thinking law school, but I've heard of people who skip over that bit.

HillLobbyist7 karma

Federal lobbying - go work on capitol hill for a few years. As I said elsewhere, being able to navigate the U.S. Code of Laws is really important so law school cant hurt. But it really depends on what you want to do. If you want to work at a high-power law firm like Patton Boggs, law school and being a chief of staff to a member will be helpful. If you want to lobby on behalf of an smaller organization it's totally not necessary.

ughalready5 karma

You say you're hoping to clear up some misconceptions about lobbying. What is the biggest misconception you've heard? Also, are there politicians who look at it strictly as an incoming bribe, don't care what you're lobbying for and strictly want to know how much will go into their coffers?

HillLobbyist8 karma

Biggest misconception is how the process works.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAC2xeT2yOg

I think most people still think it happens like this. Lobbyists walk down on the house floor, hand out checks, and say "vote for x". I don't think most lobbyists operate that way. I don't think most of them represent groups with PACs or hand out money to politicians. There are people lobbying for almost literally every single issue under the sun. As a former staffer I took meetings with people who wanted more astroturf on school football fields. They had nothing to offer but data showing the cost effectiveness to our district.

That being said, certain groups do donate to members. That's all relatively transparent unless it goes through PACs. And those groups most definitely get greater access. I would argue that for any given member, things aren't so shady. It's mostly party and committee leadership where the big dollars fall.

thekfish5 karma

Do you receive a lot of hate from stangers for being in that job position?

HillLobbyist10 karma

Only on reddit! People who know what I lobby on behalf of are generally super into it!

thekfish8 karma

Well, this is the Internet; a festering cesspool of unbridled rage coupled with anonymity masking the true face of the socially awkward.

HillLobbyist8 karma

Fact.

Dakrys4 karma

Assuming you're a somewhat frequent reddit user, what is it like? Your profession is constantly the scapegoat for every political discussion. "Those evil lobbyists, doing their job and getting paid for it. Why I oughtta...." Even when reddit scapegoats do show up and do AMAs, they're either jumped on for some semantic issue in a reply or they're exonerated as "One of the few, few, good ones," without disrupting the circlejerk scapegoat flow. So mad props for doing this.

Q: If you had to pick the top 3 misconceptions about your job, (as it relates to the field, not necessarily to you specifically), what would they be and what is really going on there?

HillLobbyist19 karma

I wrestle with it. Part of me doesn't want to blame people for not understanding - but at the same time, it's suuuuper fucking frustrating watching something like the Comcast - Time Warner merger and seeing how easily the administration and many members of congress will bend over for a company that is in the business of monopolization. So I get the anger. I am angry too. But people should learn what the universe is beyond those examples. Nearly every law is shaped by lobbyists. Did a seatbelt save your life? Lobbying. Did you drive in a car that you are exponentially safer in than you would have been 20 years ago? Lobbying. Did your house or office withstand a significant disaster like an earthquake or hurricane? Lobbying. Did you breath cleaner air in your office? Lobbying. Greater labor protections? Lobbying. So, you know, hate it, but know that literally every positive aspect of your life is ALSO touched by it.

Dakrys8 karma

It makes a lot of sense. People love to hate on lobbyists for their potential role in taking peoples' jobs away, but lobbyists can also work to protect those same jobs.

Everybody hates a defense attorney because they represent criminals and try to get them out of jailtime. Until somebody who is considered to be innocent takes the stand, and the guy is a beacon for truth and democracy. That's probably the best comparison I can come up with.

HillLobbyist3 karma

Agreed. I have only positive thoughts about people who are out there lobbying for things like safety, equity, medical research...

Djerrid4 karma

Could you give us an example of what a "brilliant" piece of lobbying looks like? Like that one time that, when you look back at it, you think "Damn, that was really well done."

HillLobbyist7 karma

Sure. MAP-21, the last long-term bill that authorizes our nation's transportation programs was going to gut ALL dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure - which came from various pots of funding. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill cut the funding before it even reached committee. Boxer threw it out as a compromise to get Republicans on board. Super frustrating for people who value things like safe places to cross the street.

So a lot of lobbyists for transpo groups, health groups, childhood safety advocates, etc, got together and struck a compromise in an amendment known as the Cardin-Cochran Amendment (http://www.cardin.senate.gov/newsroom/news/cardin-cochran-amendment-would-boost-local-control-of-bike-ped-funding). Basically, it was a compromise that allowed states the opportunity to transfer bike/pedestrian funding to other priorities cough highways cough if they chose, but ensured that a portion of the funding would go directly to local control for cities and towns that actually value things like ensuring bus stops have safe crossings next to them. It was not a solution any of the advocates wanted, but it kept funding in the bill (at about a third less overall). It was bipartisan. It passed on the floor by voice vote without objection. That was a brilliant last-ditch effort to compromise and save a program.

RenegadeBAM4 karma

What do you think about the Koch Brothers?

HillLobbyist13 karma

I think they are everything that's wrong with the country. But they aren't lobbyists. They are primarily involved in PAC financing.

jack_johnson15 karma

What do you think about George Soros?

HillLobbyist6 karma

I don't really have any thoughts. I do think its hypocritical of D's to shit on big money/PACs, but then to play the game. But the flipside is, if they don't, the tea party takes over? So....

Public financing!

eyeballin_u3 karma

[deleted]

HillLobbyist2 karma

No, not yet. But I also do not work in campaign financing so I don't know that I really would. I didn't see a big difference after citizens united, for example, but I have seen the difference on paper in terms of dollars spent. That has very little if nothing to do with lobbying though.

--lolwutroflwaffle--3 karma

House of Cards has been mentioned already, but does that show accurately portray a lot of things that happens on the Hill?

Also, what (not who) do you lobby for?

HillLobbyist4 karma

I lobby for equity and safety in our transportation system (I know, pretty evil!). No. That show is not a political drama. It is a drama that takes place on capitol hill. Literally nothing about it is accurate. ESPECIALLY not the part where there's a dunkin donuts in the house cafeteria!!

bobthebobd3 karma

Do you think it would be possible for someone from a professional field (not politics, but medicine/computers/engineering/etc.) to run purely online for a senator/congressman?

Personally I feel like that's the only way to get an honest politician at this point in US.

HillLobbyist7 karma

Well. That happens a lot with the teaparty. Lots of restaurant owners. Construction company owners. Farmers. But they have a lot of "astroturf-roots" dollars behind them!

Noah2brown43 karma

What was the process you went through in order to get the job you currently have and to the point in your career you are at? Like education, internships, shitty jobs, and etc.

HillLobbyist5 karma

Sold my soul to the devil at midnight!

For realsies, though: college, lots of volunteer service, interned on the hill, took shitty work on the hill, got better work on the hill, left the hill to do this.

Noah2brown42 karma

Damn that sounds rough... How many years to get to the point of a decent job and income?

HillLobbyist6 karma

Like nearly any field these days, 5 or so years?

rensooom3 karma

Do you truly believe that the freedom to lobby enhances our democracy? If so is there any example where it doesn't?

HillLobbyist10 karma

You can't prevent lobbying. Lobbying is the byproduct of a representative democracy. If we want to have direct democracy, then there'd be no reason for lobbyists, but that's never going to be the case for obvious reasons.

I think the problem is how money flows. We need to help separate representation from cash!

AristotleKnowsAll3 karma

Can you give a breakdown of the proposed Transportation Bill and how it differs from the last multi-year bill? Also does it have a chance of passing this year?

HillLobbyist3 karma

There are no bills in the Senate or House yet. The administration has put forward a bill which differs in that it has greater focus on equity, interconnectedness, multi-modalism, performance from state DOTs and MPOs, performance and outcome based funding. The major difference now is that there are no earmarks for transportation bills - which is HUGE. The last bill was the first earmarkless bill and so all projects were formula funded except for one discretionary grant program which isn't nearly large enough to feed our backlog of transportation needs. The problem with that is you end up with silos of funding that don't coordinate well with each other and tend to lead to silos of infrastructure. What incentive does a state have to connect sidewalks with transit with highways when they are all individual, formula funded pots of cash?

ImHalfManHalfAmazing3 karma

Who are some of the politicians that are the hardest to work with? The easiest?

HillLobbyist4 karma

You know, it's totally random for me. I've met with offices that I thought would be a total nightmare and their staffs were great! I am reluctant to name names, as my effectiveness is really dependent upon those relationships. Sorry I can't be much clearer than that.

phil276173 karma

[deleted]

HillLobbyist5 karma

I ask myself that a lot. I don't think most of them are real people? So no. Some probably do, but they are generally the ones actually standing up to the machine. Don't hear much in the press about them. Rosa De Lauro. Al Franken (sometimes). Thems kinda folks.

YouthInRevolt2 karma

Do you feel that Kaiser's "So Damn Much Money" gave a fair portrayal of the lobbying industry? Anything in particular that might have been embellished or understated?

HillLobbyist2 karma

Haven't seen it. Documentary? Should I check it out?

PlaydoughsRepublic2 karma

As a fellow lobbyist, thanks for doing this.

HillLobbyist2 karma

Join in on the fun! =P

Dr3wcifer2 karma

It seems to me that much of the money is beginning/continuing a shift away from a federal/Congress centric model of influence and instead are focusing on the more "cost effective" (read cheaper) State politics.

With the current swing of lobbying towards the States, what do you see the future of Federal lobbying becoming? Will it take a back seat to the States?

I'm a veteran and college student going into grad school for Public Admin whose main area of interest/research is DoD spending. Seeya in DC.

HillLobbyist4 karma

I don't really have a good answer for you there. I will say that as the federal government becomes more and more lethargic, states are having to pick up a LOT of slack. I don't think there will ever be a lack of need for representation in DC though.

Jaksongitr2 karma

How did you get into the field? Where would somebody start if interested in lobbying? What is a typical day for you? Has your lobbying accomplished anything substantial (anything we may have heard about)?

HillLobbyist3 karma

I've answered the typical day part a couple of times. Worked for members of congress. Some national service before that. My lobbying has not yet, but that's mostly a timing issue. Transportation bills are long-term authorizations and it will be another 6 months to a year before the next one is out. Ill let you know! =P

quietchaos2152 karma

Exactly how easy is it to buy our government? How much does a senator or congressman cost?

HillLobbyist2 karma

No clue! Never tried. Check out opensecrets and see who the top donors are, though. That'll give you some idea.

gradadv2 karma

Thanks for doing this. I'm a biomedical researcher. Funding cuts have been devastating. Is there any hope to waking up congress? What can we do?

HillLobbyist3 karma

Not next Congress unfortunately. You NEED to go to your representatives with evidence in hand showing how appropriations cuts are harming people on the ground in their district. Harming jobs. Putting us at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world. They HAVE to hear from you or they wont stand up for you.

butch813852 karma

So, what does a typical day look like for a lobbyist? Based on the comments, it seems that most people are picturing you taking congressmen out to dinner or the strip club and getting them to agree to shady regulations, etc. Obviously that is not the case. Is most of the time spent acquiring the data and information and picking out the right situations to discuss with politicians? How many days per week do you actually talk with politicians, and for how long?

Thanks for the AMA despite all of the hate thrown around here!

HillLobbyist2 karma

Mostly strip clubs! Hah. If you browse through here I've taken a few stabs at that question.

Yesticles2 karma

If you're still here...

I understand it's illegal to pass on checks to congressmen, but I assume that just as in corporate sales, disgusting amounts on money go into extravagant lunches, holiday gifts, and other things that could be seen as "just part of the job."

Could you tell us a bit about your experience with this type of thing? How extreme is this type of behavior in congressional lobbying?

HillLobbyist2 karma

That's also illegal. The money does go to PACs though!

You cannot have that discussion in an office, so it's never come up. Any quid pro quo would land both of us in jail. It tends to be less nefarious. Oh, Railroad X usually throws 2k our way each year and they don't like this new labor requirement? We should probably talk to them.

That kinda thing. Not saying its good. Just not as nefarious as some people think.

crayoloswagpwned2 karma

How easy is it to get politicians to do something for money

HillLobbyist4 karma

I have no idea. I have never offered a politician money. That is an oversimplification of how the process works though.

zazey_baby2 karma

How do you enjoy being a part of the problem?

HillLobbyist1 karma

What do I do that makes me a part of the problem (serious question)? Lets talk.

AeshmaDaema2 karma

Is there a practical and effective path to get private money out of politics?

HillLobbyist2 karma

Getting money out is as easy (not really that easy, though!) as having publicly financed campaigns. That would solve a ton of problems right there.

HillLobbyist2 karma

And there are lobbyists working on that!

Chubbstock2 karma

I know tons and tons of money comes through lobbying, especially from the large communities of corporations such as guns, tobacco, pharma, etc. How much does the actual lobbyist (that... that's you) make, and is it proportional to how much the organization is putting into it?

HillLobbyist2 karma

I can't say. I don't work for an organization with PAC funding, so I have zero frame of reference. That's all publicly disclosed, though, so I would assume there's great research out there on it.

jcococo2 karma

There's only so many transportation and infrastructure advocacy organizations in town, so I'm tempted to start guessing...

How do you feel about GROW AMERICA, despite the unlikely prospects of finding funding from corporate tax reform?

HillLobbyist2 karma

There's SOOOO many transpo lobbyists. During MAP-21 I probably met with 40-50 organizations a week for 4 or so months. Such a nightmare period of my life!

I like aspects of grow america. It provides more than just reforms to funding pots, like I'm sure the senate bill will do. Clear vision for what a transpo bill SHOULD look like.

I doubt much will happen with it, but it does help Boxer move her priorities. She can always say "this doesnt go nearly as far as the president's bill" if she gets republican push back.

BuddahJesus1 karma

I dont like you.

HillLobbyist1 karma

Really? Why? I advocate for equity and safer road conditions. I don't work for a corporation. I don't associate with PAC funding. I provide research on road safety to members of congress so that less people are killed each year. Why dont you like that?

Thekdawggg1 karma

Have you ever been paid to lobby on behalf of a cause you objected to morally?

HillLobbyist2 karma

I am not a for-hire lobbyist. I lobby on behalf of an organization with one particular purpose. So no. But really, for transportation, there's not a ton of evil shit out there.

KristopherRocancourt1 karma

are you as scummy in real life as everyone portrays lobbyists as being? how much head do you give to senators?

HillLobbyist1 karma

I am basically Dennis from Always Sunny.

No. Read my post. I lobby for a non-profit with zero pac affiliations. How scummy can we possibly get?

AldurinIronfist1 karma

Thanks for your AmA!

I remember when President Obama was elected he passed an "anti-lobbying" law. How effective was this law and what were its effects on your personal work situation?

HillLobbyist2 karma

I think that has more to do with the administration - but I don't think it's been all that effective? I mean, better than nothing, but it had to do more with revolving door lobbying within the administration than money going to politicians.

gomexz1 karma

If youre a lobbyist, does that mean you get like a million dollars in donations to vote certain ways on things. If so, would you like to donate 36,000 dollars to me so i can pay off my stupid student loans?

HillLobbyist1 karma

Read my headline. I work for a non-profit with zero PAC affiliations.

GoopyEyeBooger1 karma

In your experience how out of touch is Congress with the majority of lower (> 40,000k) income Americans?

HillLobbyist1 karma

Republicans? Super. Democrats, I think most of them are generally in favor of supporting lower income brackets, BUT, their leadership is fucking awful and holds meaningless votes on things like food stamps and fair wages that they HOPE will not pass because it allows them to beat up republicans. That's so fucked up.

ihatereddits1 karma

How would one get into this sort of work? I would love to work within the government and especially within the houses of congress, even if it wasn't as a senetor or representative.

HillLobbyist2 karma

Either by working for Congress or working closely on a specific policy issue first.

FlamingEagles1 karma

It's almost re-election time, which politician's PAC will you be donating too?

HillLobbyist3 karma

Did you read the headline of my post? We don't work in connection with any PACs. Me personally? That's not super relevant, but none in 2016.

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

HillLobbyist3 karma

Have good relationships.

ProfessorOzone1 karma

When do you think we can get a lobbyist. . . you know . . . The common man?

HillLobbyist5 karma

SO many lobbyists advocating for the "common man". You just don't hear or think about it that much. Is your car safer than a car manufactured 20 years ago? Did a seatbelt save your life in a car accident? Did you walk on better designed, safer streets than they were 20 years ago? Did you go to a hospital with state of the art health equipment? Are you working in safer conditions than people 10 years ago? ALL lobbying.

matchstiq0 karma

How do you sleep at night?

HillLobbyist3 karma

Why don't you expand on what, exactly, you mean, and I will happily answer!

taddy151-3 karma

How do you sleep at night?

HillLobbyist1 karma

Second person to ask this. Tell me what you mean and I will answer you honestly.

SolGarfuncle-7 karma

Could you please go die somewhere and stop fucking up our political system?

HillLobbyist0 karma

Explain?