Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Adventures in Lobbying #1


SANTA FE � Many years ago, I wrote a column containing tips for aspiring lobbyists. It wasn�t your normal �How a Bill Becomes a Law� piece, extolling the joys of becoming a citizen lobbyist for a day.
It was more an attempt to prepare first-time lobbyists for the realities of what they are likely to face when they come to Santa Fe to present their case to New Mexico lawmakers.
And maybe it served as a vehicle to provide some laughs for those who had been through their first experience and had confronted the harsh reality that things never go quite the same as the instruction sheet told them they would.
OK, so maybe my advice overstated the case a little. That�s what one of Santa Fe�s top lobbyists, Gary Kilpatric, thought after he read a reprint of my column in the New Mexico Business Weekly seven years ago.
But he liked the idea of injecting some humor and a moderate dose of reality into the training session he conducts for the state Association of Commerce and Industry every year at the beginning of the Legislature.
So Kilpatric revised my �Lessons Learned Lobbying in Santa Fe� into a presentation he thought might provide a little more accurate picture of the adventures a citizen might expect upon a first attempt at conquering the New Mexico Legislature.
Kilpatric emphasizes that most of those who try their hand at lobbying find themselves captivated by the process. He describes lobbying as an exciting and effective way to exercise your first amendment right.
After all, Kilpatric says, it can�t be so hard to buy a few lunches, schmooze in the halls, rub elbows with power brokers in the Bull Ring and then presenting a couple of minutes of razor-sharp testimony in committee.
But not so fast, he says. That�s the fantasy league of lobbying. Let�s look at what might be a �bad� day of lobbying.
Adventure #1. The very day you head to Santa Fe the Pineapple Express covers the state with a foot of snow, making your early arrival to get your bearings a forgotten dream.
Adventure #2. If you find a parking place within three blocks of the Capitol, it will have someone�s name on it, along with a sign describing the atrocities visited on those who dare to park there. You end up parking closer to Espanola than to the Round House.
Adventure #3. When you arrive at the Capitol, there is not a legislator in sight. The ones you want to see are in caucus. Then you learn that all the legislators are in caucus and everyone you see standing around is another lobbyist.
Adventure #4. As you walk around, you find there are many places you can�t go. There are signs all over saying �No mad dogs or lobbyists beyond this point.� And there are burly sergeants at arms everywhere who never heard of a Dale Carnegie course in public relations.
Adventure #5. The caucuses finally end and immediately all lawmakers go into a joint session for an endless floor debate on whether the state question should be �red or green� and you wonder �What am I doing here?� The debate continues so long that lawmakers stroll over to their snack bar at the edge of the chamber. And there goes your chance to take one to lunch.
Adventure #6. The session finally ends and you catch a legislator in the hallway before his committee hearing starts. You tell him why your bill is wonderful and ask him to vote for it. He asks who is lobbying on the other side and when you tell him, he explains that the guy was best man at his wedding and his first-born is named after him. Then he asks you to get together with the guy and reach a compromise. You do, and he says, �Sorry, buddy, try again next year.�
Next time we�ll explain what happens once the committee hearing begins.


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